SEOUL - A year after 159 people lost their lives in a devastating crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon district, survivors and bereaved families continue to seek answers and accountability.
According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, the families are calling for the passage of a special law to mandate an independent investigation into the incident and ensure proper compensation for the victims.
The disaster unfolded on October 29, 2022, when approximately 100,000 people gathered in Itaewon for Halloween celebrations. Victims were crushed in a narrow 3.2-meter-wide downhill alley as a massive crowd swarmed the area, making it the deadliest crowd crush in South Korean history.
Lee Jung-min, a representative of the bereaved families who lost his 28-year-old daughter in the incident, expressed frustration at the lack of transparency and accountability so far. "A year has already passed since the horrible memory, but not a single piece of truth has been disclosed properly, while no one has been punished yet," he said.
Current trials are ongoing for multiple officials, including Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young and former Yongsan Police Station chief Lee Im-jae, on charges related to the mishandling of the disaster and first-aid response. Investigations revealed that 87 emergency calls made on the night of the incident were largely neglected, and no preventive measures had been implemented for the large gathering, suggesting the tragedy was "man-made."
Cho In-young, a lawyer supporting the bereaved families, said, "We're hoping that the legislation will pass within this year in order to seek the truth behind the tragedy and help victims, especially those who did not receive any substantial aid, be properly compensated."
In response to the disaster, the government has since proposed new safety measures, including requirements for regional governments to prepare safety plans for mass public events and a crowd management monitoring system. By 2027, all regional governments will be mandated to operate 24/7 disaster situation rooms and replace current surveillance cameras with AI-powered ones for crowd monitoring.
As the first anniversary of the tragedy approaches, various businesses including hotels, amusement parks, and stores have opted to skip Halloween marketing this year. Bereaved families are planning a public mourning event next Sunday, which will include a march from Itaewon to Seoul City Hall and an evening mass rally.
Song Hae-jin, the mother of a 16-year-old victim who took his own life while grieving the loss of two friends in the incident, urged people to join the commemoration to "console one another and think about what we could do in our respective places to not be hurt again."