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South Korean Police admit to failures that led to 155 deaths in Halloween crush

Police failed to respond to warnings

South Korean Police have admitted failing to put in place crowd control measures in preparation for large groups of revellers who flood the Itaweon area of Seoul every year to celebrate Halloween. 

NPR reports,  “South Korea’s police chief admitted “a heavy responsibility” for failing to prevent a recent crowd surge that killed more than 150 people during Halloween festivities in Seoul, saying Tuesday that officers didn’t effectively handle earlier emergency calls about the impending disaster.”

Commissioner General of South Korea’s police forces, Yoon Hee Keun,  said “I feel a heavy responsibility (for the disaster) as the head of one of related government offices” adding  “Police will do their best to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

The death toll currently stands at 155, most of those killed were in their teens and early 20s.

It was reported that as many as 130,000 people flooded the area – the relevant area of which is little larger than Temple Bar –  last Saturday night for the first Halloween weekend since covid restrictions and outdoor mask mandates ended in South Korea. 

Gript reporters previously witnessed instances of dangerous levels of overcrowding in the area during Halloween 2019, but as reports reveal, little was done to address the issue. 

President Yoon Seok Yeol said “an initial investigation has found that there were many urgent calls by citizens notifying authorities about the potential danger of a

crowd gathering in Itaewon, but officers who had received those calls didn’t respond to them in a satisfactory manner.”

Local media outlet Kukmin Ilbo features a report that female internet personality, Kwak Hye In, had entered a police station –  located across the road from where the disaster unfolded –  approximately one hour before to warn police that the situation in the area was dangerous. 

She told the police ‘People keep pushing’ and ‘There’s going to be an accident’. 

Kwak had gone to the police station to report her bag going missing but had been told to come back in the morning, with officer adding ‘It’s difficult enough for us to get in there now’. 

Arirang News featured a report advising that local authorities were urging people not to watch videos uploaded online during the disaster as doing so could cause ‘long term mental health issues’. 

Korea NOW reports calls for security guards of venues in the area who allegedly refused to let those desperate to escape the crush inside adjoining bars and restaurants. 

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