Man Sets Fire to ‘Gosiwon,’ Attacks Residents Randomly
Firefighters on an ladder break the windows of a burning “gosiwon” in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, Monday, to allow toxic fumes to escape.
By Bae Ji-sook
A 31-year-old man set fire to a crammed residence in southern Seoul, Monday, and attacked those who ran out of the building to avoid the flames, killing six and leaving others seriously injured. The suspect said he simply did not like the world around him.
Gangnam police apprehended the man, identified as Jeong, on charges of arson and murder. Around 8:40 a.m., Jeong poured lighter fluid on his bed in his``gosiwon'' room and set it on fire.
When people ran out of their rooms to avoid the flames after detecting smoke, he waited on the third floor stairs and stabbed them with a 24-centimer-long knife killing six and leaving others severely wounded.
The building was a four story one with 69 people residing in it and the police are looking into whether more people sustained injuries.
The fire lasted 30 minutes and the bodies of the deceased were taken to Gangnam St. Mary's Hospital and Soon Chung Hyang University Hospital.
According to the police, Jeong was unemployed and had eight prior convictions, and told them that he did not want to live anymore.
Jeong, a high school graduate, also had a ``gas gun'' in addition to the knife, police said, adding that there were no CCTVs installed in the building.
Gosiwon is originally referred to where entrants lived to prepare for examinations for civil servants jobs, but these days students and people seeking for cheaper accomodation reside in them. Victims were mostly ethnic Koreans from China staying at the residence while working as day laborers.
The tragedy once again brought to the fore the issue of safety at such places. There have been nine cases of arson or fires at gosiwon killing 25 and injuring tens of more since 2003. Fire safety, emergency exits and other facilities are areas of concern.
Public alarm over crimes committed at random toward unspecified people is rising. Experts warn that it's time for society to take care of those who have mental problems and harbor hatred against the community.
In 2003, a mentally disturbed man set fire to a metro train killing more than 200 people in Daegu while a 70-something man who had issues with government's compensation for his real estate set fire to National Treasure No.1 Sungnyemun earlier this year.
Experts that the government needs to have a management system for those with criminal records having no job. ``One may not prevent such crimes. But at least we need to have some measures to deal with these people as they do not adapt well in society but get isolated and commit such spontaneous crimes,'' said a professor from Kyonggi University.