An Unthinkable Building Collapse

June 29, 1995, was marked by the worst peacetime disaster in the history of Seoul _ the collapse of the Sampoong Department Store. It occurred at 6 p.m. when the building was full of shoppers _ largely upper-middle class housewives.


The history of the Sampoong Department Store began in 1987, when the Sampoong Group launched the construction of a new emporium in the posh Kangnam area. The building was finished in late 1989, but by that time its design and structure had undergone a number of serious changes. The owners did not bother to ask for approvals _ especially as they knew the changes were against the building code. They simply bribed the relevant officials.


By the mid-1990s, Sampoong had become one of the most fashionable and expensive department stores in the city. The Korean business and political elite (or rather, its female part) frequently shopped there.

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