A suspect, a man in his 20s surrendered to the Seoul Jongno Police Station around on Monday, less than a day after another incident of graffiti defaced Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of South Korea’s cultural heritage sites.
The suspect turned himself in for the second act of vandalism and underwent police questioning about the crime, with authorities still searching for two suspects involved in the earlier incident on December 16.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, a 14th-century national treasure in Seoul, experienced graffiti defacement over the weekend. The palace, drawing millions of visitors annually, saw parts of its walls sprayed with red and blue paint on both Saturday and Sunday nights.
At least two individuals were involved in the first incident on December 16, with one person turning themselves into the police on December 18. Graffiti is uncommon at heritage sites in South Korea, which are afforded special legal protections, and violators face severe penalties, including prison sentences and fines.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace, a grand heritage site built during the Joseon Dynasty, showcases clay folklore statues, the king’s throne hall, and expansive roofs adorned with red, blue, and green fired clay tiles.
Situated at the base of Bugaksan mountain amid the contemporary office buildings of central Seoul, the palace, not hosting government offices, has recently become a venue for events like Gucci’s fashion show.
Authorities were first alerted to vandalism around 2 am on Saturday, where the words “free movie” in Korean and various website addresses were spray-painted in blue and red across 44 meters, targeting the entrance to Yeongchu Gate and the side gate of the National Palace Museum.
On Sunday at approximately 10:30 pm, a separate graffiti attack was reported at Gyeongbokgung Palace. The three-meter-long and 1.8-meter-high graffiti found on the walls of Yeongchumun, the west gate, featured the name of an indie rock band, The Black Skirts, along with a song title and a red spray-painted heart.
The Cultural Heritage Administration reported that security guards would be deployed to Seoul’s major palaces, including Gyeongbok Palace, to thwart potential vandalism. In addition, approximately 20 more security cameras will be added along the walls of Gyeongbok Palace, enhancing surveillance, with the administration emphasizing preventive measures against further incidents.
Constructed in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace stands as a state-designated historic site, encompassing walls recognized as cultural heritage, rendering any defacement a violation of the Cultural Heritage Protection Act.
Authorities suspect the second incident might be a copycat crime and plan to investigate connections once an arrest is made. Per the current law, violators of the Cultural Heritage Protection Act face significant penalties, including orders for repair and restoration of state-designated cultural property, imprisonment of up to five years, or fines of up to 50 million won ($38,500).