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Court sentences arsonist to life imprisonment over fatal bar fire

A man convicted of intentionally setting fire to a bar in June and killing five people was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison for aggravated arson.

The Jeonju District Court handed down the sentence to the 55-year-old sailor, identified only by the surname Lee, for the arson attack in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, which killed five customers and left 28 injured. 


In handing down the verdict, the court said, “The defendant’s crime does not seem accidental, as he stole the flammable materials beforehand and waited for the bar to become crowded.”

In June, Lee was arrested for setting the bar ablaze after quarreling with the bar owner about money. According to police reports, he drenched the bar entrance with gasoline before lighting the fire and locking the victims inside.

The court berated Lee for not showing sincere remorse toward the bereaved families. “The defendant ought to be isolated from society and live in atonement forever for those sacrificed.” 


In passing the sentence, the court briefly touched on the issue of the death penalty, which has long been a dead letter in the South Korean judicial system. “The court understands the prosecution’s demand for the death penalty for this man,” the judge said. “However, it is unrealistic to expect the punishment to be (imposed in this case) after more than 20 years of (disuse).”

Last month, the prosecutors indicted Lee and sought the death penalty, decrying the crime as an “extreme act of murder” against innocent people and committed out of revenge.

By Choi Ji-won (