SEOUL — Police arrested 16 teen-agers today on charges of killing 37 fellow residents of a South Korean girls reform school by setting it on fire, a police spokesman said.
"We arrested [them] on charges of arson and homicide," he said.
Police said the young women set the fires in a bid to escape when guards unlocked the doors.
The early morning fires swept out of control before the doors were opened to let firefighters in.
Many of the dead were packed into restrooms, and news reports said bloodstains and fingernail scratches on the barred windows showed the women's frantic efforts to escape the flames.
The victims--all but three in their teens--either burned to death or suffocated. One was only 13. Sixteen others were injured.
The school had a history of escape attempts and was known for strict discipline of the girls and women, most of them runaways caught working in brothels and bars. It was run by the Korean Presbyterian Church in Yongin, 35 miles south of Seoul.