Arsonist of Park Chung Hee’s birthplace held

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Arsonist of Park Chung Hee’s birthplace held

DAEGU - A suspect in the torching of a memorial at the birthplace of Park Chung Hee, the late father of President Park Geun-hye, was detained by local police to stand trial.

The Gumi Police Precinct of North Gyeongsang said Sunday that the Gimcheon Branch of Daegu District Court issued a pretrial detention warrant on Saturday afternoon to allow the police to continue holding a 48-year-old man surnamed Baek, who was captured by police Friday after a fire broke out at the birthplace of the late strongman in Gumi.

The fire was extinguished in about 10 minutes, but the memorial hall was destroyed.

Baek, a resident of Suwon, Gyeonggi, was captured after he sprayed paint thinner on the memorial and set it on fire around 3 p.m. on Friday. During police questioning, he confessed to the crime.

“President Park must resign or kill herself, but she didn’t do either, so I set the fire,” he told the police. Before he set the fire, he left a note in the guest book of the memorial, which read “Park Geun-hye must kill herself, before disgracing her father.”

The arson took place amid a snowballing public clamor for President Park’s immediate resignation over an ever-deepening abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal.

The city government of Gumi said it will spend 90 million won ($77,000) to restore the memorial for the late president. Park’s birthplace was designated North Gyeongsang Memorial 86 in 1993.

The late strongman was born in a typical farm house in Gumi in 1917 and lived there until 1937. The compound has four buildings including the birth place. It has become a pilgrimage site for many older conservatives, who credit Park with Korea’s rapid industrialization and economic growth.

Park came to power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled the country until his assassination in 1979.

Baek, according to the police, has a record of similar arson incidents. He set fire at the birthplace of former President Roh Tae-woo in Daegu in December 2012. He was convicted of the crime and given an 18-month suspended prison term with three years of probation.

In February 2007, he vandalized the Samjeondo Monument in Songpa District of Seoul. For this crime, he was given an 18-month suspended prison term with two years of probation. The monument marks one of the most humiliating moments in Korea’s history.

In 1636, the Joseon Dynasty submitted to China’s Qing Dynasty after the second Manchu invasion of Korea, and King Injo of Joseon erected the monument at the order of the Qing Emperor.

“I felt like I completed delayed homework. I was ready for the consequences, so I don’t feel uneasy,” the suspect declared in an Internet posting after he was released from police custody in 2007. He vandalized the monument by writing “Removal” on its front and back sides.

When he set a fire at the birthplace of former President Roh in 2012, he left a two-page letter to claim that he had done so to condemn Roh’s corruption. “Punishing the wrongful in politics and history is the duty of a citizen and it serves the interests of the country, public and history,” he wrote.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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