Itaewon Stampede Claims Over 150 Lives

By Julia Ordaz

On October 29, 2022 a Halloween celebration in Seoul, South Korea saw a massive attendance after years of COVID restrictions. An estimated 130,000 people passed through the celebration at some point, turning the narrow alleyways of the Itaewon neighborhood into a fatal destination. Over 150 people died from suffocation and being trampled. Another 172 were injured when the crowd surged forward, following a rumor that a celebrity was in one of the local bars. 

Itaewon is one of the most trendy neighborhoods in Seoul, South Korea. It’s known for its rich nightlife and international cuisine. It is thanks to Itaewon’s international residents that Halloween became such a popular celebration among young adults in the Asian countries where the holiday isn’t widely enjoyed. 

Many attribute the tragedy to a gross case of negligence. According to the BBC, 11 calls were made to South Korea’s police hotline before the situation turned deadly at 10:15 PM. With rising pressure from the public the police have released the transcripts of the calls. “No one is controlling it right now. The police has to stand and control this. You should let people out first, and then let people come in. People keep pouring in while they can’t come out,” warned the first caller, Itaewon business owner Ms. Park at 6:34 PM. Out of the 11 calls, police officers were only mobilized for 4 of them. BBC states that, “They [the police force] did not dispatch anyone for the calls made from 21:07 [9:07 PM] onwards- the hour leading up to the crush.” 

No organization was in charge of the event, so no official crowd control was taking place. The National Police Agency has revealed that 137 officers were present, but tasked with crime control, not maintaining the safety of crowds. South Korea’s national police chief Yoon Hee-geun and other officials have admitted responsibility for the tragedy. 

An investigation conducted by 475 men and women is now underway.

On October 30, 2022 South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a national mourning period. Public altars were set up and filled with white chrysanthemums- the flower representing  grief in Korean culture- and heartbroken citizens. 

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