© Reuters. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol walks at the scene where many people died and were injured in a stampede during a Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022. REUTERS/ Heo Ran
By Soo-hyang Choi
SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea moved to calm public outrage on Tuesday over a Halloween party crush that killed more than 150 people, most of them young, promising a speedy and intensive inquiry and calling for tough new safety measures to prevent similar disasters.
The death toll from the crush at a crowded Halloween street party on Saturday climbed to 156 with 151 injured, 29 of whom were in serious condition. At least 26 citizens from 14 countries were among the dead.
Tens of thousands of revellers – many in their teens and twenties and dressed in costume – had crowded into narrow streets and alleyways of the popular Itaewon district for the first virtually unrestricted Halloween festivities in three years.
National Police Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun said that crowd control at the scene was “inadequate”. The country’s chief security officer, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, had said deploying more police would not have prevented the disaster.
“I feel limitless responsibility about public safety over this accident and I will do my best to make sure such a tragedy as this does not occur again,” Yoon told a news conference.
“The police will speedily and rigorously conduct intensive inspections and investigation on all aspects without exception to explain the truth of this accident,” Yoon added.
President Yoon Suk-yeol has declared a week of national mourning, saying the country had too many safety disasters. He said better responses was critical, including improved crowd control.
“We should come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowds, not only on these streets where this massive disaster took place but at other places like stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather,” he said at a cabinet meeting.
All the victims have been identified and memorial altars have been set up at the Seoul city hall and in the Itaewon district, where citizens paid their respects.
Lee has come under sharp public criticism for his comments about the role of police. On social media, some Koreans said precautions were inadequate for an event that had been expected to draw large crowds.