SOUL The area of Itaewon subway station is full of flowers, memorial letters, post it notes, sweets, refreshments, cigarette packs and fruits. People stop to be quiet and pray in memory of the victims of the accident a week ago. You can also hear mournful tunes sung by monks from the sidewalk.
A period of mourning has been observed in South Korea since chaos broke out in the Halloween crowd on the last Saturday of October, resulting in the deaths of 156 people.
Someone who works in a cafe near the venue Park Mine left work shift by bus home at eleven in the evening, when the accident happened.
– I saw the police, ambulances and a huge number of people, but I thought that maybe at worst some people just drank too much, he tells .
At home, Park did the same and went to bed without thinking about it any more, but in the morning it was not unclear what it was all about. On the phone screen were a stream of messages from friends who know where Park works.
– Everyone had written and asked if I was okay. Then I typed in Itaewo as a search term, and all kinds of news and videos came up. I realized, ugh, this is serious stuff.
The popular bar street turned into an accident site
The Halloween celebration in the Itaewon area was the first big mass event after the country’s corona restrictions. Up to 100,000 revelers, mostly young people, had gathered there. The accident happened on a narrow street where a well-known bar popular with young people is located. In addition to Seoulites, there were also people from other parts of South Korea and tourists from other countries celebrating.
The exact cause of the accident is not yet known, but according to current information, it was some kind of chain reaction in the crowd
The event speaks at home and in workplaces, and there are many different interpretations of it.
– Some say that according to the Halloween custom, candy was distributed there, but it was drugs, and someone had a heart attack as a result. Or only some have started pushing or reaching forward, in which case people have fallen and been trampled, Park says.
Locals have been shocked by one of the biggest civilian accidents in South Korea’s history. During the official week-long period of mourning, some cafes and restaurants have kept their doors closed, and the places that are open have turned off the background music.
In their twenties Awon Choi and Jin Woo Cho have come a few times to Itaewon from the other side of the big city.
– We were not ourselves and we do not know anyone who was at the scene at the time, but we are shocked by this. This is particularly touching because most of the victims are our age, Awon tells , his voice breaking.
The president promises crisis support and better security measures
President of Korea Yoon Suk-yeo has promised (you will switch to another service), that even after the mourning period, there is a crisis point where victims’ relatives, rescue workers, eyewitnesses and other citizens can get support. The president has visited the memorial erected in front of the town hall. According to the president’s spokesperson, national security measures and practices will be reviewed as soon as next week.
The police have been criticized for not properly controlling the event and not preventing the accident. The police have defended themselves by saying that the crowd was so huge that an accident of this magnitude could not have been prevented. Apparently, the authorities did not expect that so many people would participate in the celebration after the corona restrictions.
Park Mine is frustrated that he sees the police on his commute now, after the accident.
– Why weren’t there enough police officers when they were needed?
On the same day, a demonstration was also organized in Seoul, criticizing President Yoon, who took office in May. Park says that police force had been deployed to a peaceful demonstration rather than to a bar area crowded with tens of thousands of revelers.
– Today, when I came to work and passed by the venue, my mind was filled with numerous thoughts. I just got depressed, he sighs.
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