There have always been extreme groups of people who wish to do harm to others, and this certainly inflicted a great deal of harm to the citizens of Seoul. It also bore some telltale characteristics of terrorist attacks, such as the fact that there was no obvious cause of the collapse. An internal explosion, perhaps from a terrorist bomb, would have accounted for why the building fell, but upon investigation, it was revealed that there were only small fires fueled by gasoline from cars in the parking garage as opposed to the huge infernos that usually accompany bomb blasts. Sampson) Also, the debris from the structure fell straight down instead of outward, like an explosion would have caused, so a terrorist attack was quickly ruled out. (Superstore Collapse) With this news, investigators would need to look to the structure itself for answers. The building was constructed in the late 1 ass’s and was completed in 1989. (Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) It was originally planned to be an office building, but late in construction, the owners opted to change their structure into a department store-a fact that would later prove to be vital to the case. Superstore Collapse) The building was built on an old landfill site, so the integrity of the foundation was obviously suspect to failure, but after in depth testing, it was revealed that the building had a solid foundation that manned in place and did not fail. (Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) Investigators began to research into the history of the structure, which they learned had originally been planned as office space. The sass’s were booming for South Korea.
Their economy was rapidly growing, and Seoul was to host the 1988 Olympic Games. (Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) The combination of these two factors led to a boom in construction in the late sass’s (the era that the Sampson Department Store was constructed) that was too great for the builders of Seoul to handle, and since international instruction firms were not allowed to sign contracts, the firms in Seoul were overloaded and as a result, many buildings had ‘cut corners’ and were less than desirable. Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) It was discovered that the ‘Housing Construction Company’ had originally been hired to build the entire office building, but after Sampson executives proposed drastic changes in the plans, the situation was complicated. The owners of the building decided they wanted to change the building into a department store, which meant they would need escalators on each floor. This meant cutting into the main columns supporting the structure. On top of this, they wanted to add a fifth floor to house a skating ring, to which the Housing crew refused, saying that the building wouldn’t support the changes. Superstore Collapse) They were fired and an in house construction company was hired to finish the job. They carried out the changes, and accidentally MIS-aligned the columns on the fifth floor with the columns below, so instead of the weight being shifted straight down the columns and into the ground, the weight was shifted across the 5th floor and down to the fourth floor columns. Superstore Collapse) The building was changed to a department store, with weakened columns and the added load of a fifth floor. Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) On top of this, Sampson executives changed their minds again later, changing the top floor into 8 traditional Korean restaurants instead of a skating ring. Since Korean tradition is to eat on the floor, the floor had to be thickened by 4 feet to allow for heavy heating elements, which pushed the building dangerously close to its limit. (Superstore Collapse) The faults were adding up and pointed to a general disregard for building odes and safety, but there was still no definite answer for what caused the collapse until a groundbreaking discovery was made.
Three 1 5-ton air conditioning units on the roof (which was Of insufficient width to hold that much weight) (Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) had been re-positioned some 2 years earlier. Standard practice would have been to hire professionals with expensive cranes to lift the units, and gently set them down into their new positions, but in order to cut costs, they were placed on rollers and dragged across the roof. (Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) This caused n enormous amount of weight to shift across the whole roof, causing stress, fractures and huge visible cracks throughout the concrete slab. Mclean, Anderson, Petersen, Del voice) After vibrations from the badly placed air conditioning units caused the cracks to widen over the years, the building finally reached its breaking point on that tragic day. The Sampson building had been planned as office space, but late in construction, executives decided to change the building into a department store. After firing Housing Construction for refusing to carry out the changes, an in house construction company was hired. The columns were weakened to allow for escalators, and the columns added to the slab above the 4th floor were not aligned with the columns below.
The heaviest floor in the building was added on top of these MIS-aligned columns, and on the roof, the heavy air conditioning units. After they were dragged across the insufficient roof, huge fractures in the slab should have warned Sampson executives that they had a problem, but instead of taking action, they simply ignored the huge structural flaw for 2 years. For 2 years, every time the air conditioning units turned on, workers reported feeling the whole building vibrate; these vibrations caused the cracks in the roof and 5th floor slab to widen around the MIS-aligned columns.
On the morning of June 29, 1995, the store manager was made aware of strange noises coming from the upper levels of the building, but he took no action. Workers reported huge cracks in the fifth floor slab that had formed overnight and the sagging ceiling that morning, but instead of closing the whole building, only sections of the fifth floor were closed. (Superstore Collapse) A meeting was held behind closed doors between the building owner, the structural engineer who oversaw construction of the building and he store manager. Superstore Collapse) The engineer urged the men to close the store immediately for urgent repairs, as he believed the building was in danger of collapse, but the men ignored his warnings (although they themselves were allowed to go home early after that meeting). A few hours later, at about 5:50 p. M. , a powerful showplace shook the whole building. Workers sounded alarms to evacuate the building, but by now it was too late. At 5:57 p. M. The roof around the air conditioning units gave way, and the air conditioning units crashed down onto the already overloaded and weakened 5th floor.