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Arrest made in Seoul landmark fire

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: "Mr. Chae" was convicted of torching a Korean palace in 2006
  • NEW: Chae has confessed to starting the Namdaemun fire, police chief says
  • NEW: Easy access, lightly populated area dictated Namdaemun choice, police say
  • The more-than-600-year-old Namdaemun was country's oldest wooden structure
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From Sohn Jie-ae
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- A 69-year-old who was previously convicted of torching a palace has been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed Namdaemun, South Korea's oldest wooden structure and a national treasure, authorities said on Tuesday.

People on Monday look at the debris of the Namdaemun gate in central Seoul after the fire.

Similarities between the Sunday night fire and the 2006 blaze led to the investigation of a man identified only as Mr. Chae, said Kim Young-Su, chief of police of the Namdaemun police station. Chae had served time in prison for the palace fire.

Police searched the home of Chae's ex-wife and found a can of paint thinner and a pair of leather gloves they believe were used in the fire, Kim said.

Chae confessed to starting the fire, saying he was upset by a land grievance that led him to start the 2006 fire and by the sentence he was handed in that case, Kim said.

Chae was free on a suspended sentence, Kim added.

Chae said he chose Namdaemun because it was easily accessible by public transportation and yet situated in a lightly populated area where the fire was unlikely to hurt people, according to police.


The fire burned for hours, and more than a hundred firefighters tried to save it. Video Watch the reaction to the Namdaemun's destruction »

Namdaemun was more than 600 years old and stood at the center of Seoul, having served as a main gate into the capital for centuries. The gate was considered a national symbol to Koreans around the world. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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