South Korea vows probe into deadly Halloween crush


  • Death toll rises to 154 due to crushing Saturday, 149 injured
  • Government promises thorough investigation
  • Residents, officials offer their condolences at memorials
  • Disaster is worst in South Korea since the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014
  • Halloween celebrations, other events cancelled

SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Reuters) – South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo Monday promised a thorough investigation into the Halloween infatuation over the weekend that killed more than 150 people in the capital and plunged the country into a week of mourning.

Officials said the death toll had risen to 154 overnight with 149 injured, 33 of them in serious condition. The dead included civilians from at least two dozen countries.

Tens of thousands of revelers gathered Saturday in the narrow streets and alleys of Seoul’s popular Itaewon neighborhood for the first virtually unlimited Halloween festivities in three years. Many of the revelers were in their teens or twenties and dressed in costume.

But chaos broke out as people poured into a particularly narrow and sloping alleyway, even after it was already full, witnesses said.

On Monday morning, people laid white chrysanthemums, potions and candles at a small makeshift altar near an exit from the Itaewon subway station, a stone’s throw from the crush’s site.

“It doesn’t matter how they died or why they died. Those poor people, all the same age as my grandchildren, died anyway,” said Jung Si-hoon, a retiree and church elder, who holds an old wooden cross at the altar. ‘What more do we need to say? We must pray for them and wish them to rest in peace.’

Nearby shops and cafes were closed and police cordoned off the site of the incident, which was littered with trash.

A man pays tribute near the site of the stampede during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 30, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji

Schools, kindergartens and businesses across the country have canceled scheduled Halloween events. K-pop concerts and government briefings were also cancelled.

“The government will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this accident and do its best to make the necessary institutional changes so that such an accident does not happen again,” Han said as government officials met to discuss the disaster.

“Identification has been completed for all but one of the 154 deceased, and I believe it is time for follow-up measures such as burial procedures,” Han said. “We will do our best to provide the necessary support by taking into account the views of the bereaved as much as possible.”

Han said there were incidents where people promoted hate speech by blaming victims, as well as spreading false information and posting disturbing scenes of the incident online. A National Police Agency official said they were investigating six related cases.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has declared a period of national mourning and designated Itaewon a disaster area, visited a memorial altar at Seoul City Hall on Monday and paid his respects to the victims, his office said.

The crush came as Itaewon, a symbol of freewheeling nightlife in the South Korean capital for decades, began to flourish after more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions, with trendy restaurants and shops replacing seedy establishments.

The disaster is the deadliest in the country since the sinking of a ferry in 2014 that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.

The sinking of the Sewol and criticism of the official response sent shockwaves through South Korea, sparking widespread investigations into security measures in the country that are likely to be renewed in the wake of Saturday’s crush.

Reporting by Choonsik Yoo, Ju-Min Park, Joyce Lee and Soo-hyang Choi; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Kim Coghill, Gerry Doyle and Edmund Klamann

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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