Arson is suspected in a fire that broke out at a hospital for the elderly in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province on Wednesday, killing 21 patients and one nurse and injuring eight others.
When the fire broke out on the second floor of the hospital around half past midnight, there were 34 patients and an assistant nurse in the ward. Although the fire was put out quickly, the victims died from smoke inhalation.
Firefighters said as smoke and toxic gas spread quickly, many bedridden patients had no chance to evacuate.
A total of 324 elderly patients, many with dementia and other age-related chronic illnesses, were staying in the hospital that opened in 2007.
The fire is believed to have been set by a dementia patient.
Police on Wednesday arrested the 81-year-old man identified as Kim and have since been questioning him.
Kim was identified from CCTV footage. Police have found what remains of a lighter that seemed to have been used. Kim denies the charge, police said.
Kim was hospitalized with a stroke on May 1 but seems medically fit for questioning despite his dementia, according to police. "Kim looks psychologically unstable and is refusing to say anything," police said. "We're going to find out what motivated him to commit the arson once he stabilizes."