60-year-old man, distraught by debt, sets fire to house and dies with parents inside

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60-year-old man, distraught by debt, sets fire to house and dies with parents inside

A family of three perished in a fire on Wednesday in Miryang, South Gyeongsang. Authorities suspect the son of the family, disheartened over the state of his life, may have started the fire to kill himself.

According to local police, the fire in Chodong-myeon, Miryang, was first sighted around 7:50 a.m. The family in the house, an 89-year-old father surnamed Kim, his 88-year-old wife and their 60-year-old son, all died in the fire.

Without any apparent injuries, police concluded that they died of suffocation. The fire was put out around 8:10 a.m. In searching the living room, authorities found a will written by Kim, the 60-year-old son.

“It is too painful,” the will says. “I love you so much, mother. Everything is my fault.”

The first person to discover the fire was a caretaker from a local nursing home who looked after Kim’s mother, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The worker would visit the family for two hours from 7:50 a.m. every day, except on Sundays.

“Just this Tuesday, the son called me,” the caretaker reportedly told police. “Sounding drunk, he said, ‘I have a lot of debt and I cannot get in touch with my siblings. I am going to die soon.’”

The caretaker added, “Because he often said such things, I didn’t think too much of it at the time.”

Police discovered that the son had owned an advertising business that failed, and that he got a divorce around three to four years ago. Kim then came to live with his parents in Miryang.

Authorities spoke with Kim’s acquaintances and found out he reportedly complained often to his siblings about his alleged tens of millions of won of debt, and frequently asked his father for financial help. The son reportedly tried starting a persimmon retail business, but it didn’t work out.

Kim’s parents had hundreds of millions of won worth of assets, and were not recipients of national basic living funds, police said.

“Putting together testimonies by Kim’s acquaintances, we suspect the son, disheartened over the state of his life, committed arson and died with his parents,” said a police officer. “His parents owned land and had a fair share of assets, so we have ruled out the possibility that the parents may have started the fire because of hardship.”


BY WE SUNG-WOOK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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