Police shift focus of Yongsan fire probe to base workers
SEOUL — Initial tests on the clothing from a key suspect from last month’s fire on Yongsan Garrison have shown nothing suspicious, so South Korean police are shifting their focus to base workers who were inside one of the burned buildings before the fire, a lead investigator said Monday.
Police are trying to piece together inconsistent stories from Korean Service Corps workers about the March 16 fire, which burned two buildings on Yongsan Garrison and a third on the nearby service corps compound, according to Oh Sang-seok, the leader of the violent crime investigation team at Yongsan-gu police station.
Already, one service corps manager has told police he didn’t lock a gate to their compound after returning to their office after a night of dinner and drinks; police said they suspect another manager did the same. Three other men, also corps workers, were burned in the fire.
It’s unclear, however, how many workers returned to their office that night to sleep instead of going home, South Korean police have told Stars and Stripes.
On Monday, Oh said he’d asked phone companies for the men’s cell phone records from that night.
Kweon Jung-ja, 57, remained in custody Monday, though she still faces no charges. Officials tested white gloves that she was wearing at the scene of the March 16 fire and found nothing suspicious.
Kweon initially admitted that she started the fire, though she has said little to police since then.
South Korean police are leading the investigation, though U.S. Forces Korea military police and fire officials also are involved. A USFK spokesman declined to comment on Monday, saying the military will release information when its investigation is complete.
The fire was the biggest to hit Yongsan in decades and destroyed two Directorate of Public Works buildings in addition to the service corps office. The fire drew nearly 200 firefighters and took more than three hours to bring under control.