TAEGU, South Korea — Members of the U.S. military community here staged a hushed memorial service Thursday for victims of last month’s deadly subway fire that roared through a Taegu subway station not far from the Army’s Camp Henry.

The casualty toll in the Feb. 18 inferno stands at 198 dead, 145 injured and more than 200 missing, according to Taegu city authorities. No Americans were among the casualties, but two victims were relatives of South Korean civilian employees working for the U.S. Army.

The fire that turned the Jungangno station into a virtual incinerator struck horror and disbelief in South Korea and much of the world.

Authorities are holding Kim Dae-han, 56, a man with a history of mental problems who has allegedly admitted setting the fire. Reports say Kim said he intended to commit suicide but didn’t want to die alone. Kim allegedly ignited a flammable liquid that quickly engulfed the train he was on and later spread to a second train.

Authorities, meanwhile, are also holding the second train’s driver and five other subway employees who face prosecution for alleged negligence in their handling of the incident, Taegu authorities told Stars and Stripes.

On a cold, rainy afternoon, some 280 people, mostly U.S. soldiers in camouflage uniforms, took seats inside the Camp Henry Theater for the 32-minute service.

Several made remarks and offered prayers, and hymns were sung. A number of South Korean soldiers and a handful of Korean and American civilians from within the U.S. military community also attended.

In brief remarks, Army Col. James M. Joyner, commander of the 20th Support Group at Camp Henry, noted that two South Korean civilian employees of his unit suffered directly from the fire.

One employee of the unit’s public works directorate lost his 53-year-old brother, and an employee at the motor pool lost his 13-year-old son, Joyner said.

“This tragedy,” said Joyner, “through the actions of one person, has impacted the whole community. While there is little we can say or do to lessen the emotional burden, our hearts and prayers are with these two dedicated employees — one a brother and another a loving father — as they endure the tragic consequences of the devastating fire … ”

Army Maj. Gen. Jeanette K. Edmunds, commanding general of Camp Henry’s 19th Theater Support Command, read a Bible passage as a prelude to remarks from an Army chaplain.

Edmunds read from Job 19: 21-27, which reads, in part: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Army Col. Clarke McGriff, command chaplain of the 19th TSC, then enlarged upon the text from Job, noting how in the midst of immense and prolonged personal sorrows, Job maintained his faith in God.

“Somehow, he says, ‘I know my Redeemer lives,’” McGriff said. “‘Sick, I know my Redeemer lives. Forsaken, I know my Redeemer lives’ … He is saying, in essence, there is a God. And even as we stagger in Taegu from this tragedy … I say that there is a God … ”

“When I look at the memorial service like this,” said Shyn Dong-soo, Taegu’s vice mayor for political affairs, “it’s very comforting and very heartening.”

Capt. Kim Tae-song, a South Korean army officer assigned as aide-de-camp to Edmunds, saw the service as an expression by the American military community of condolence toward the people of Taegu.

“Just [as] I feel they would like to share their grief with us … ” said Kim, “so I appreciate very much … your emotion, your need to help some Koreans who suffered grief, who lost their families. That’s important.”

1st Sgt. Stephen Widener of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 20th Support Group, viewed it as “an opportunity for us as U.S. soldiers to show support and goodwill for this tragic event.”

“They want to reach out and help,” said Maj. Kristi Pappas, 20th Support Group chaplain. “It acknowledges that we’re all in this together.”

— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.

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