06 August 2003
A South Korean court has convicted Kim Dae-han of arson and homicide for causing one of the country's deadliest rail disasters. Kim will spend life in prison for setting fire to a subway train in Daegu in February and killing 198 people.
South Korea's Daegu district court found 56-year-old Kim Dae-han guilty of homicide and arson for setting a fire to a train in a crowded subway station on February 18.
The blaze, which was set by igniting a container of gasoline, engulfed a six-car train and then spread to a second train within minutes. Kim told the court that he had hoped to commit suicide in a public place. But he escaped from the train with burns while 198 people died.
Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty, but the court said Kim was mentally ill at the time and showed remorse. He will spend life in prison.
The court also sentenced the two train drivers and several other subway workers to up to five years in prison for negligence in failing to protect passengers.
Relatives of victims killed in the arson attack, however, were disappointed and angered. When the verdict was read, some burst out in angry screams, calling for Kim's execution. Others protested outside the court.
The tragedy has forced safety standards in subways to be raised in South Korea and the government has boosted spending on fire safety equipment and rescue training.