Namdaemun gate to be restored using earlier conservation plans

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Sunday, 10 February, 2008
South Korea

The iconic Namdaemun gate in Seoul, South Korea, was badly damaged by fire following an arson attack in February. A fire broke out in the evening of 10 February 2008, destroying the wooden parts of the upper gate, but leaving the lower stone parts intact. Two disposable lighters were found at the scene, and 69-year-old Chae Jong-gi was arrested shortly afterwards, having admitted pouring paint thinner over the gate and setting it alight. Chae, who had received an earlier conviction for setting fire to Seoul's Changgyeong Palace in 2006, claimed that he had caused the blaze in protest about a private property dispute. The Namdaemun gate was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul, originally completed in 1398 and rebuilt 50 years later. It has been restored several times over the centuries, most recently in 2005. In 2006, a plaza was built around the gate and the area was reopened to the p ublic after having been closed for nearly a century. Chae said that easy access to the gate was one of the reasons why he had chosen this particular landmark for his arson attack. According to South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration, rebuilding the gate will cost 20 billion won ( £10.8 million) and will take three years. However, they said that detailed measurements and records made during the 2005 conservation project would allow an exact replica of the gate to be made.