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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 13:53 GMT
Anger mounts over Korean fire
South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-Hyun (C) stands with a carnation in front of an altar
President-elect Roh spent 30 minutes with bereaved families
South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has been confronted by angry relatives of those who died in the subway arson attack in Daegu on Tuesday.

Mr Roh, who takes over as South Korea's leader next week, shed tears as he visited a makeshift altar near the site of the blaze, and paid a silent tribute to the 125 people who are so far known to have died.

But when he tried to leave the area, several mourners are said to have blocked his path, angry at the government's efforts to handle the disaster.

Mr Roh promised to hold an inquiry to "thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and why the damage has been huge".

Where can I find the body of my son?
Grieving mother

Police say a mentally-disturbed man has already admitted starting the fire - by lighting a flammable liquid inside an underground train, which ignited and spread to a second train.

Mr Roh said he would set up a special disaster control agency as a result of the tragedy.

"What is most important is to prevent such an accident from happening again," he said.

DNA identification

Many relatives have expressed frustration at the amount of time needed to identify the victims.

"Where am I supposed to find my child?" one woman asked Mr Roh.

"I have no body - please find it for me," another pleaded.

Only 45 victims have so far been identified, with 388 people still unaccounted for.

Grieving relatives in Daegu
The government has declared five days of mourning
While officials say the number of missing has been inflated by clerical glitches, the death toll is almost certain to rise from the current figure of 125.

Forensic scientists say they will need DNA testing to identify many of the bodies, which were burned beyond recognition.

Anger is also being directed at the railway's staff and safety measures.

Questions are also being asked about the materials used on the trains, some of which are said to have emitted toxic fumes.

Other critics blame the automatic locking system on the train doors, which prevented people leaving their carriages.

Inauguration plans muted

Mr Roh's visit to Daegu included a trip to a local hospital, where he met some of those hurt in the attack.

He told them the government would give as much support as possible to the injured and bereaved.

"This is something that cannot be solved by money, but the government will make its best efforts to provide assistance for the pain you have gone through," Mr Roh said.

His planned inauguration ceremony on Tuesday will now be muted as a mark of respect for the victims.

Outgoing President Kim Dae-jung has also cut back on public engagements, and cancelled a ceremony on Friday to mark his impending departure from office.





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SEE ALSO:
Daegu's unanswered questions
19 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Arsonist 'didn't want to die alone'
19 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Korean arson victims called for help
18 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
28 Jan 03 |  Country profiles


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