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“Sungnyemun, We’ll Heal You!"

Posted February. 16, 2008 04:02,   


Seoul’s Namdaemun police station, which is leading the probe into the Sungnyemun arson case, carried out a search warrant on Feb. 15 for the main office of KT Telecop, the firm responsible for security at Sungnyemun.

After seizing evidence from the customer service center on the 6th floor of the security firm’s main office in Guro-gu, Seoul, at around 2:15 p.m., police announced that the investigation would “focus on the possibility that KT Telecop responded slowly and that procedures used to contract security guards would also be scrutinized.”

According to police investigators, KT Telecop dispatched staff to Sungnyemun at around 8:58 p.m. on Feb. 10, 11 minutes after automatic sensors at the site went off.

“KT Telecop told authorities that it had not carried out any maintenance or checks on the proper functioning of the sensors,” a police official said, adding, “Police authorities will verify whether or not the security firm inspected the security system as required by law.”

KT Telecop had set up 12 units of ultraviolet ray sensor and four sets of closed circuit TVs to automatically guard Sungnyemun from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m. the next day, a time when the public employees of the Jung-gu District Office are off duty.

Police are also looking into reasons why the Jung-gu District Office terminated the contract service with security firm S1 when there was still one month left before the end of the contract, and instead signed a new contract with KT Telecop on Jan. 31.

On Friday, police also examined the Sungnyemun fire site.

Apprehended suspect Chae (70), who hid his face with a grey cap and a white mask, said, “I don’t feel good about the fact that I destroyed [Sungnyemun]. But there was no casualty. The cultural heritage can be restored.”

Chae reconstructed the night of the arson, in which he laid flat one of three bottles of thinner and lit it with his lighter.

Meanwhile, Seoul residents continued to visit Sungnyemun to express their grief. A temporary board standing in the condolence booth at the fire site was full of notes conveying how saddened Koreans were about losing their most valuable national treasure.

One note left by an elementary school student read: “Hello, Sungnyemun. I’m Su-bin. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been when you burned. We’ll heal your ailing body.” There were also many messages wishing for a full recovery as restoration work on the site is set to begin.

A resident named Yim Jeong-hyeon left a message asking people in charge to treat the remaining pieces with care. “Grazing by it with the end of one’s clothing was sinful enough. But now we have to stick an excavator into its heart.”