Investigators raid 55 locations, including police chief’s office, over Itaewon crowd crush

SEOUL– A special investigation team raided the office of the national police chief and dozens of other offices Tuesday as part of an investigation into the deadly Itaewon crowd crush that killed at least 156 people.

A total of 55 offices were raided, including the offices of National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun and Kim Kwang-ho, the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), according to officials.

Other locations include offices of senior SMPA intelligence and situation monitoring officers, the Yongsan Police Station, Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young, the Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters and the Yongsan Fire Station.

The Seoul Metro headquarters and the Itaewon Subway Station were also searched.

Police and fire authorities, as well as the Yongsan Ward office, have been under fire following revelations there had been warning signs before the deadly accident on Oct. 29, but they did little to prevent it or to respond in a timely manner.

Lee Im-jae, ex-chief of the Yongsan Police Station, Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young, and Yongsan Police Station chief Choi Seong-beom have been booked for an investigation on charges of professional negligence resulting in death in connection with the deadly crowd collapse.

The investigation team previously said senior emergency monitoring officer Ryu Mi-jin who was in charge at the SMPA on the day of the accident was also booked on the same charge, but later corrected itself and said only a dereliction-of-duty charge has been applied to her.
Commissioner General Yoon and Seoul police chief Kim have been under fire for failing to take steps in advance to prevent the Halloween accident and became belatedly aware of the deadly incident so as to result in a bungled police response.

Investigators also planned to confiscate the mobile phone of ex-Yongsan police chief Lee to determine why he did not promptly arrive at the accident scene and belatedly informed the top police command of the emergency situation.

Another focus of the investigation is on whether the Yongsan Ward office sufficiently carried out disaster prevention planning in preparation for the Halloween crowds and whether it did enough to respond to the deadly accident.

The raid into the fire station and Seoul Metro were respectively related to allegations that the Yongsan Fire Station chief sat on a police request to jointly respond to the Halloween crowds before the crowd collapse occurred and that the subway operator did not take precautionary measures to help disperse crowds in Itaewon, such as a decision to order trains not to stop at the Itaewon Subway Station.

The latest police raid came six days after eight locations, including the SMPA, the Yongsan Police Station and the Yongsan Ward office, were initially searched in connection with the investigation into the deadly crowd crush.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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