Seoul-Crushing Disaster



154 left dead after stampede in Seoul.

Hannah Stickney, Staff Writer

The people of Seoul, South Korea witnessed an especially spine-chilling Halloweekend after a crowd surge in the Itaewon District became the deadliest disaster in South Korea since 2014. 

On the night of October 29th, more than 100,000 partygoers crowded the bars and narrow streets of Itaewon. Later on, around 10:15 PM, the first reports were made of the crowd getting out of control. By the end of the crowd surge, 154 people were dead and almost 200 more were injured. Young adults made up the majority of celebrants, including 26 foreigners from 14 countries. Victims became so tightly packed they could not move and faced unrelenting pressure all around them. Lacking any way out, some couldn’t draw a breath. Anyone that fell had no way to get up, like drowning in a sea of people. 

1700 personnel, all of the available workers, were sent out to the scene. A confirmed 21 people suffered cardiac arrest. Dozens were given CPR. One survivor said people fell “like dominoes.” Victims shouted, “Help me!” Bodies filled the streets and were sent to hospitals and gyms so families could identify them. This crowd surge was the nation’s biggest disaster since 2014 when a sunken ferry took down 304 victims with it. 

President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a week-long national mourning period, the second in the country’s history. Public events were canceled or delayed. Local governments set up public mourning sites. 

 The Seoul police are facing mass scrutiny. This nightlife neighborhood of Itaewon attracts many visitors every year for Halloween festivities. 130,000 people rode the Itaewon subway that Saturday, according to Seoul Metro Corp. Witnesses are criticizing the lack of crowd control measures. NPR says, “Public safety experts emphasize that the gathering’s spontaneous nature cannot be an excuse for inaction. Moon Hyeon-Cheol of Soongsil University’s Department of Police Science says the police and local authorities “…could have blocked car traffic off the street near the site during this past weekend or had the subway pass Itaewon station without stopping.”

The large crowds were left on their own without preparations to prevent disasters and investigations into the cause of the tragedy are underway. Law enforcement’s insufficient safety planning and deflecting blame in the days after has earned them strong disapproval. One particular Seoul officer under investigation was in charge of intelligence affairs at Yongsan district police station, the one that oversees the area where the crowd crush took place. This officer was alleged to have destroyed evidence that showed the police knew of the crowd risk. He was then found dead in his home on Friday, November 11th from a suspected suicide. NPR states, “The families of some victims say they plan to file a class action lawsuit to get compensation from the government.”

In the midst of Itaewon’s chaos, one thing is certain: the current safety precautions are inadequate to prevent tragedies like the Halloween crowd crush from taking place.