Playing with fire

An editorial in the Korea Times bemoans the country’s lack of fire prevention and overall safety standards, echoing President Lee Myung-bak’s statements that the fire that claimed 10 lives, including seven Japanese tourists, at a Busan shooting range diminished South Korea’s reputation.  A breakdown of tragic fires in South Korea over the past decade:

Eight people died in a fire at a state-run psychiatric hospital in northern Seoul in 2000 and another eight were killed in a blaze at a cram school in Gwangju City in 2001. A fire in a red-light district in Gunsan City claimed 12 lives in 2002. No one can forget the arson attack on the Daegu City subway train in 2003 which killed 192 passengers. Nine foreigners were killed in a fire engulfing the immigration service’s detention center for undocumented visitors in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, in 2007.

Last year, 47 people died in separate fires at two refrigerated warehouses in Icheon, 80 kilometers south of Seoul. The country also lost Namdaemun gate, a 610-year-old landmark at the heart of the capital city, in February 2009, due to another arson attack. All those incidents were blamed on the nation’s widespread violations of safety and fire prevention steps.

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