Official: Firebomb attempt a fiasco

LAWRENCEVILLE - On June 9, Hong Seop Chae stormed a Korean-language radio station in Duluth - armed with two wine bottles and a liquid laundry detergent container full of gasoline - and doused the broadcast room and a hallway before two employees tackled him, an official testified Wednesday.

But before employees could subdue Chae, he flicked a lighter, igniting the hallway, himself and a good Samaritan trying to stop him, said Gwinnett County Fire Department arson investigator Ira Burnette.

Another employee used a water cooler to douse the burning men and extinguish flames on the floor and walls, Burnette said during a probable cause hearing Wednesday.

Chae, 51, told investigators he drove to Atlanta Radio Korea AM 1080's Duluth office, where he was recently fired as a salesperson, armed with two Molotov cocktails and the gas container. Investigators later found a third bottle in his car, Burnette said.

Despite his recent termination, Chae's exact reasoning for the attempted firebombing is unclear, said Burnette.

"I did not get a purpose out of him," he said.

Chae will remain without bond at the Gwinnett County Jail, charged with two counts of possession of a destructive device, one count of first-degree arson and one count of aggravated battery.

Chief Magistrate Judge George Hutchinson found probable cause Wednesday to bind all charges against Chae to Superior Court. His public defender, attorney Scott Drake, declined to ask the judge to set bond for his client.

Burnette said the injured man was visiting the radio station at the time. He was treated for second and third degree burns on his fingers, his left arm, "the whole left side of his body, and his back," Burnette said. Friends have said the victim is expected to recover.

Four witnesses implicated Chae at the scene. Investigators searched Chae's Duluth home but found no other evidence, Burnette said.

A manager at the radio station said Chae was fired in late May for a poor work ethic and because the station's management learned he might not be cleared to work in the United States. He recently emigrated from South Korea.

Young Kim, an acquaintance of Chae's in Duluth's Korean community, attended the hearing. He said he's never seen the upbeat churchgoer so sullen.

Chae's alleged actions are inexplicable, Kim said.

"The only thing I can say is, with all life's difficulties, he must have been in a corner," Kim said. "Anybody can break."