6 Killed In South Korea Arson, Stabbing Spree

By: AP
By: AP

SEOUL, South Korea – A financially strapped South Korean man went on an arson and stabbing rampage in Seoul on Monday, leaving six people dead and seven others wounded, police said.

The 31-year-old suspect, identified only by his surname, Jeong, first set fire to his room in a low-cost lodging facility in southern Seoul and then stabbed other residents with a sashimi knife while fleeing the fire, police said.

Five people were stabbed to death and another died after jumping out of a window to escape the blaze, police said.

Seven others were wounded, including four seriously, and the death toll could rise, according to police.

The suspect, arrested at the scene, told police he did not want to live because "everybody looks down on me," Kim Kap-shik, chief detective at Seoul's Gangnam Police Station, told reporters.

Police said they seized two more knives and a tear gas gun from Jeong.

Such random violence is not common in South Korea, though not unknown.

In 2003, a 56-year-old man with a record of mental illness ignited a carton filled with gasoline on a subway train in the southern city of Daegu. The blaze engulfed the entire train, leaving 198 people dead and 147 injured.

In February this year, a 69-year-old man, upset over a land dispute, started a fire that destroyed a 14th-century gate in Seoul that was considered one of South Korea's most treasured landmarks.

Jeong used to work part time at restaurants and other places, but has been out of a job since April, police said.

His "livelihood was difficult and (he) has been under considerable financial pressure" and could not pay his rent and mobile phone fees for months, chief detective Kim told reporters.

Kim also said Jeong was facing a police investigation for not taking part in annual training for military reservists.

Police said Jeong told them that he had attempted suicide when he was a middle school student, and had been suffering occasionally from severe headaches.

Yonhap news agency and other media reported that Jeong had been convicted eight times of various crimes in the past. Police were not immediately available to comment on the reports.

One of the dead and four of the injured victims were ethnic Korean Chinese citizens working in South Korea, according to media reports.

The lodging facility has 85 tiny rooms on the third and fourth floors of a commercial building. The rooms are rented on a monthly basis and are generally used by low-income people living alone. Sixty-nine people were living in the facility, Yonhap said.

After the blaze started, about 100 firefighters brought the flames under control in half an hour.

Neighboring Japan has been struck by a series of random stabbings this year.

In the worst case, seven people were killed in Tokyo's famous Akihabara electronics district in June when a man slammed a truck into a crowd of people, jumped out and began stabbing passers-by at random.


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