The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Feb 12, 2008

South Gate Down

Here's a sad story. A fellow's residential area was redeveloped. He was dissatisfied with the compensation and appealed to a tribunal, which he felt did not treat his case with sufficient attention. So he planned his grand revenge over a period of several months. He climbed onto the Namdaemun gate using a ladder, poured paint thinner over it, and set the stone and wood structure aflame. Within moments, the 600-year old pride of Korea, a survivor of cataclysms and war, was burnt to a charred wreck. It feels like the heart of the nation was destroyed overnight, said one shocked citizen.

The Namdaemun (or Great Southern) gate was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul. Built in 1398, it served as the main entrance into the walled city, which had by then become the capital of the Korean kingdom. Also called Sungnyemun (or Gate of Exalted Ceremonies) had been restored several times over the intervening period; most recently, in the 1960s.

The locals blame easy access and lack of security for the destruction of their icon. The arsonist himself was no beginner at the game. He had attempted to set fire to the Changgyeong palace in 2006, for which he had been given a suspended sentence. What tortuous thoughts went through the fellow's mind? Clearly he had been embittered by what he perceived as an injustice. But to take it out on his own nation's cultural heart requires him to have a mind twisted entirely out of proportion. The world was aghast at the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by that thuggish coterie of beards, who could (in their own minds) legitimately claim that they had no connection with the Buddhas, representations of a pagan religion. What claim could this man make?


Anonymous said...

May be he wanted a lot of people to feel the pain he felt when his home - probably where he felt at peace - was taken away. It does not make his actions just but who said life is?

Fëanor said...

You may be right. On the other hand, he apologised profusely: I would like to say sorry to all South Koreans. I cannot apologise enough to my children and the people of this country. Difficult to say, then, that he was trying to compensate for the loss of his house, I think?

Anonymous said...

The wages of regret, as I say in an earlier post on my blog, are only useful if they are spent on making changes :-) In this case, it may be a useless emotion. Besides are you suggesting that he could not have felt immense rage first and immense regret later?

Fëanor said...

I doubt very much that he felt any regret at all. After all, he did attempt to burn down another national treasure a couple of years ago. He was reprieved, and he went ahead and destroyed the South Gate. What to make of that?

Anonymous said...

What to make of that? The man is a pyromaniac. Any excuse (just like the Bora ad said some years ago..) :-)

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