Opposition to submit request to open parliamentary probe into Itaewon tragedy

SEOUL– The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) will submit a request for a parliamentary investigation into the Itaewon crowd crush, its floor leader said Thursday, amid criticism the tragedy could have been prevented if the government properly handled early warnings.

“As public outrage has surpassed the critical point, we cannot let the government conduct an investigation of itself,” DP floor leader Park Hong-geun said. “We can no longer leave the situation as it is one in which those subject to investigation conduct an investigation and those responsible take no responsibility.”

Public anger has been growing following revelations that 11 emergency calls alerting police to dangerous overcrowding in the nightlife district of Itaewon started coming in four hours before the disaster, but police did little to prevent the disaster that killed at least 156 people, mostly in their 20s.

“It has become clear that the Itaewon accident was a man-made disaster caused by the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s overall incompetence,” Park said, accusing the government of trying to evade responsibility by claiming the disaster happened due to holes in the safety management system.

Despite prior emergency calls from concerned citizens, national police chief Yoon Hee-keun was found to have learned of the deadly crush nearly two hours after it began while President Yoon and Interior Minister Lee Sang-min first received a report on the accident about an hour after it took place.

The DP floor leader also urged Yoon to sack the interior minister and the police chief.

On the DP’s request for a parliamentary probe, the floor leader of the ruling People Power Party said his party will decided whether to comply with it after considering the details of ongoing investigations.

“I understand that the DP can request a parliamentary probe for an accident involving the death of 156 precious lives,” Rep. Joo Ho-young said. “But a discussion is necessary on whether we can agree to it and when it will take place considering details like its scope and scheduling and the fact that probes and emergency parliamentary briefings are under way.”

Joo added that it would be “desirable” to take disciplinary measures against relevant officials after probe results have been confirmed, noting that those officials are also in charge of coping with the aftermath of the tragedy.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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