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Suspect arrested in arson attack on ancient Beomeo temple

Yonhap, Jan 17, 2011

BUSAN, South Korea -- A Buddhist believer in his early 40s has been arrested as a suspect in last month's arson attack on a 1,300-year-old Buddhist temple here in the southern port city, police said Monday.

The fire on Dec. 16 destroyed a wooden gate of Beomeo Temple located in Busan and cast a shockwave across the nation.

Footage from a surveillance camera showed a man throwing an unidentified object at the gate. Police have asked him to appear before investigators voluntarily.

The 43-year-old man, identified only as Lee, was put under arrest after showing up at a police station in Busan on Sunday, police said.

Lee, a Buddhist believer of an affiliate temple of Beomeo, admitted that he set fire to the gate but did not give his motive for the crime, according to police.

Beomeo Temple was built in 678 during the Silla Kingdom and is one of the three major temples in Korea's southeastern region along with Haein Temple and Tongdo Temple.

The destroyed gate Cheonwangmun (The Gate for the Heavenly King) is one of the temple's major architectural structures that honor four mythical kings who each govern one of the directions - north, south, east and west - of heaven.

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