Parliamentary committee conducts on-site probe into Itaewon tragedy

SEOUL– Members of the special parliamentary committee investigating the Itaewon crowd crush visited the accident site and the Itaewon Police Station on Wednesday, kicking off on-site probes into the tragedy.

Led by the committee chief, Rep. Woo Sang-ho of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), members from the ruling and opposition parties mourned at an altar set up near Noksapyeong Station before heading to the accident site and the Itaewon Police Station.

Bereaved families burst into tears upon their visit, with some shouting slogans calling for the parliamentary probe to uncover the truth behind the crowd crush that killed 158, mostly in their 20s, on Oct. 29.

Some lashed out at the committee members, blaming them for the belated visit that took place roughly one month after floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties agreed to launch the special committee for a parliamentary probe.

As part of the on-site probe, committee members visited a narrow alley where the crowd surge occurred and the nearby Itaewon Police Station where they checked details on the police response at the scene. Some members slammed officers over their bungled response.

The lawmakers were expected to visit the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the Seoul City Hall in the afternoon.
“Had there been only two uniformed police officers standing guard up and down (the alley), something like this would not have happened,” DP Rep. Jin Sun-mee said, accusing the police of failing to manage the crowd.

Woo, the committee chairman, pledged to delve into why the accident was not prevented and to hold those responsible accountable for the tragedy.

“It’s heartbreaking to think how much pain and suffering the victims went through in their passing,” he said. “By investigating the truth, we will clearly determine why the accident was not prevented in advance and where the responsibility lies.”

The visits mark the committee’s first investigative activity after the probe was hampered by a dispute over the state budget proposal and a dismissal motion the DP passed against the interior minister.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) had stayed away from the committee, claiming the opposition violated an agreement to deal first with the national budget before launching the parliamentary investigation in earnest.

But PPP lawmakers returned to the committee Wednesday after holding a meeting with the bereaved families of the victims.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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