Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2015
Sampoong Department Store after the collapse*

Sampoong Department Store after the collapse*

June 29, 1995: The Sampoong Department Store closes in Seoul, South Korea. The Sampoong Group (a trade company in South Korea) began construction of the store in 1987 over a piece of land which had previously been a landfill. The original plan called for the building to house residential apartments on four floors. After construction began, Lee Joon, the future chairman of the building, decided to turn it into a department store. To install escalators, several support columns were eliminated. When the original contractors refused to carry out the changes, they were fired and Lee opted to use his own building company to complete the structure. It was completed in 1989 and the Sampoong Department Store opened on July 7, 1990.

There were north and south wings connected by an atrium and the store attracted about 40,000 shoppers per day. To obey zoning regulations, a fifth floor was added since the entire building was not permitted to house only a department store. It was supposed to be a skating rink, but that was also changed and instead it was turned into eight restaurants. The first construction company warned that the building could not withstand the extra weight. They were fired. Since Koreans sit on the floor to eat, it was warmed with hot water running through pipes in the floor. This made it necessary to increase the thickness, and weight, of the concrete slab. Air conditioning unit were added to the roof creating a load of four times the limit of the designs tolerance.

In 1993, the air conditioning units were moved when the roof showed signs of cracking. In April 1995, cracks began to appear in the south wing’s fifth floor. Lee’s response was to move merchandise from the top floors to the basement. On this morning, a number of cracks dramatically increased in the fifth floor and so management closed the top floor and shut off the air conditioning. They did not close the store or evacuate the building as they did not wish to lose a day’s revenue. Civil engineers were brought in to inspect the cracks and said the building was in danger of collapsing. Around 1 PM local time, the first of several lound bangs were heard from the top floors. Customers complained about vibrations (but apparently continued to shop).

At about 5 PM, the fifth floor ceiling began to sink and store employees blocked any customers from going to the fifth floor. The store was packed with shoppers but nothing was done to get them out of the store which closed at 6 PM. Louder cracking sounds were noted and at 5.52.30 PM, workers sounded alarms to evacuate the store. It was too late. The roof gave way and the air conditioning units fell through onto the weakened and cracked fifth story floor. The escalator region was structurally weak by design and it next collapsed and within 20 seconds all of the building’s columns in the south wing gave way and the building pancaked trapping more than 1,500 people. There were 502 people killed and 937 injured. There was ₩270 billion (Korean won) or about $216 million of property damage. It was the deadliest building collapse since the Circus Maximus collapsed in ancient Rome in 140 AD.

Capitalism: Nothing so mean could be right. Greed is the ugliest of the capital sins. – Edward Abbey

If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed [and] if we are not willing [to change], we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect. – Jacques Cousteau

So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating effect. – Eleanor Roosevelt

From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned. – Emile Durkheim

Also on this day: I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.
Globe Gone – In 1613, the London theater burned down.
Reaching Hawaii – In 1927, a nonstop flight from California to Hawaii was completed.

* “Sampungdept25” by 최광모 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons –