‘French Spiderman’ foiled in Seoul skyscraper attempt

Freeclimber Alain Robert of France, left, is hoisted to a deck of the Lotte World Tower after being forced to abandon his climb. Robert has scaled more than 100 structures without ropes or other safety equipment, setting a record for “most buildings climbed unassisted” according to Guinness World Records. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2018

‘French Spiderman’ foiled in Seoul skyscraper attempt

SEOUL: French urban freeclimber Alain Robert attempted to scale the world’s fifth-tallest building Wednesday, getting more than half way up the 123-story Lotte World Tower in Seoul before security forced him to abandon the ascent.
The 55-year-old, dubbed the ‘French Spiderman’, made his way up the building bare-handed and without ropes as staff pursued him from inside.
“I climbed about 75 stories and then after that, it was a bit like cat and mouse,” Robert said. “Finally, I decided to surrender.”
He was taken to the rooftop on a maintenance cradle and arrested.
As he awaited processing by police he said his climb was to celebrate the recent peace-making efforts between the two Koreas and he hoped the authorities would take that into account.
“I may get a hefty fine ... but I did it because of what is happening now between South Korea and North Korea,” Robert said.
“That is my way of saying thank you to Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in.”
In the last two months the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea has twice met the South’s president, the two men exchanging smiles and hugs after years of heightened tensions.
Robert has scaled more than 100 structures without ropes or other safety equipment, setting a record for “most buildings climbed unassisted” according to Guinness World Records.
His successes include many of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and iconic buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai — where he used suction devices and a safety rope as it has no hand or footholds.
Several fire trucks and police were sent to the Seoul building after a security guard spotted the French climber.
“It’s regrettable,” said You In-sik, a spokesman for the Lotte World Tower. “He climbed without permission. It’s dangerous.”
Robert has suffered several severe falls while climbing and estimates his accidents have left him 66 percent disabled. He has been arrested numerous times for his exploits.


‘King of the road’ rules again as Philippines eases coronavirus lockdown

Updated 03 July 2020

‘King of the road’ rules again as Philippines eases coronavirus lockdown

  • Just 6,000 jeepneys back in business, operating at half capacity under strict social distancing rules
  • First jeepneys were surplus army jeeps left behind by the US military after World War Two

MANILA: Thousands of jeepneys, flamboyantly decorated jeeps that serve as cheap public transport across the Philippines, were back on the streets of Manila on Friday, bringing relief to companies and commuters who have struggled with coronavirus curbs.
Dubbed “the king of the road,” an estimated 55,000 of these large, multi-colored trucks, used to crawl through Manila’s gridlocked roads on a typical day before being forced to a halt 15 weeks ago when the government imposed a coronavirus lockdown.
Just 6,000 were back in business on Friday, operating at half capacity under strict social distancing rules. In pre-pandemic times, jeepneys routinely carried up to 15 passengers who sat knee-to-knee on twin benches in the windowless vehicles, choked by exhaust fumes.
“I’m very happy we are now back on the road. This is our only source of income,” said driver Celo Cabangon, whose truck is decorated with Japanese and Philippine flags, Bible verses and the logo of US sci-fi film “Transformers.”
Under the new rules, passengers must also undergo temperature checks before boarding and shield themselves from one another with face masks and plastic sheets. The Philippines has recorded 40,000 coronavirus cases, and 1,280 deaths.
Commuter Alejandra Carable welcomed the jeepney’s return. “Our expenses are too much without jeepneys. We can save much more now that the jeepneys are back.”
A jeepney fare is typically about 9 pesos ($0.18), cheaper than trains, taxis or motorized tricycles, which were allowed back on the road a month ago when authorities started easing one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns.
A phased return to work has been chaotic without jeepneys, with commuters stranded and some companies unable to provide sufficient private transport.
The first jeepneys were surplus army jeeps left behind by the US military after World War Two. Most are festooned with religious slogans or horoscope signs and are in poor shape.