International

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South Korea ‘Stunned’ by Landmark Fire

February 13, 2008 05:14 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A suspected arson fire has destroyed Seoul’s Namdaemun Gate, Korea’s most famous landmark. A 600-year-old treasure has been lost.

30-Second Summary

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Police have arrested a man who allegedly set fire to the gate because of a land dispute with a developer. The Namdaemun Gate, which used to admit people to Seoul when the city was bordered by a wall, is today in the middle of a busy intersection, with nearby skyscrapers looming out of the exhaust fumes.

The loss of the landmark has shocked South Korea and, indeed, the world. The BBC relates the reaction of one Korean newspaper: “With our history of 5,000 years, the spirit of Koreans and part of ourselves was destroyed.”

Firefighters battled the blaze for hours, and footage of their struggle can be downloaded online. Rebuilding the gate—whose original name, Sungnyemun, ironically means fire—is expected to take three years, according to tourism officials.

Throughout the centuries, many notable landmarks have been lost to fire. One of the Seven Wonders of the World is among the earliest arson victims: the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which is in modern-day Turkey. Another famous landmark, the Parthenon in Athens, was severely damaged by shells and mortars in 1687.

Fire has also ravaged most American cities at one time or another, according to the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. Most of those fires, though, started accidentally.

Headline Links: ‘Man “Confesses to S. Korea Blaze”’

Reference: Namdaemun Gate

Historical Context: Arson and fires throughout history

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