Arsonist sets fire to Korean church for 3rd time

| August 6, 2009

An arsonist set fire to a Korean church in Duluth on Wednesday for the third time in a year.

The members of Zion United Methodist Church at 3258 Duluth Highway got a clue about the motive this time, when the culprit painted upside-down crosses and the word “Satan” on the building’s exterior in black spray paint.

“See these three crosses upside down?” said 51-year-old church member Sonnie Shin as she gestured toward the graffiti. “This is the devil’s symbol.”

The new sanctuary building was slated to open on Saturday. But church members said a total of three arson fires have repeatedly delayed construction. Shin said, “We know whoever it is, is against God, but still we have no clue who it is.”

The first arson fire occurred last August near an electrical fixture in the balcony and caused about $260,000 in damage. The second blaze in February caused about $150,000 in smoke damage to the sanctuary, church members said. Then early Wednesday morning, someone stood outside a side door of the church, poured gasoline on the ground until it seeped into the interior of the building and then lit it on fire.

The fire damage was minimal, because a sprinkler head extinguished the blaze before firefighters arrived. However, the sanctuary and fellowship hall sustained water damage. Volunteers worked Wednesday on vacuuming water from the carpet and removing damaged ceiling tiles.

Associate pastor David Yun said the fire has delayed the sanctuary’s opening by several weeks. The 400-member congregation is eager to occupy its new house of worship. The $2 million building has a towering ceiling, sparkling stained-glass windows and seating for about 900 people, said Shin.

“I don’t think God wants us to move back[ward],” said Shin. “We’re going to go forward and fight.”

Fire investigators suspect the same person set all three fires at the church, said Gwinnett fire Capt. Thomas Rutledge. A reward of up to $10,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for arson. Anyone with information should contact the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

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Category: Church Security