S. Korea Promises Investigation into Deadly Stampede

South Korean police on Monday said they have launched an investigation into the fatal crowd surge during Halloween festivities in the nightlife district of Itaewon. The stampede reportedly killed 154 people and injured 149 on Saturday.

S. Korea Promises Investigation into Deadly Stampede
Image credit: camilo jimenez / Unsplash

Facts

  • South Korean police on Monday said they have launched an investigation into the fatal crowd surge during Halloween festivities in the nightlife district of Itaewon. The stampede reportedly killed 154 people and injured 149 on Saturday.
  • The police task force's investigation includes reviewing video footage from close circuit cameras and social media posts, as well as interviewing witnesses to understand how the surge began and progressed.
  • The Itaewon area is famous for its cosmopolitan ambiance and is the country's most popular spot for Halloween celebrations. Saturday's gathering is estimated to be around 100K people, its largest since the pandemic.
  • The government also began an official mourning period for the victims on Sunday — at least 22 were foreign nationals from at least 12 nations, and other victims were too young to carry identification.
  • One national police official said that while "it was foreseen that a large number of people would gather there," they "didn’t expect that large-scale casualties would occur." There were 137 officers deployed in Itaewon on Saturday, compared with 37 to 90 officers in the three years before COVID.
  • Saturday's fatal event was S. Korea's worst since the Sewol ferry sank in 2014 and killed 304 people, prompting serious questions surrounding safety measures.

Sources: NBC, Standard, Kob, globeandmail, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by 11Alive. The South Korean government says it couldn't have predicted a deadly surge from overcrowding, but it had the manpower and experience to do more. Beyond deploying more police, the police could've also restricted cars from large pedestrian areas, enforced one-way walking lanes, blocked entries to narrow pathways, and closed Itaewon’s subway station to prevent overcrowding. The investigation must focus on faulty preparedness measures.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Hindu. The South Korean government is responsibly leading an investigation into this tragedy with full transparency. As details continue to emerge on the complex crowd dynamics, more context will come available. Seoul mobilized a massive and complex response to the stampede after it occurred, including 1,700 firefighters, police, and public officials.