Written By: Andrea Vargas, Heiry Pena, Ariana Pareja
On October 29th, the streets of Seoul were filled with crowds of people celebrating Halloween. Due to the previous year’s COVID restrictions, this year was set to be a celebratory return to normal. However, the celebration turned out to bring more people than the streets could handle.
The excitement of this year’s Halloween caused crowd surges, when there’s an overcrowding of people in a confined space and makes it impossible for people to breathe and move around. Two crowds of people met from opposite streets and moved into a smaller alley in the Itaewon district, making it nearly impossible for people to leave the crowds. People began to fall, get pushed, and crushed by each other. Many were forced to enter bars and climb walls to escape the crowd. Several people suffered from cardiac arrest.
Hours before the tragedy, there was an influx of emergency calls about the massive crowds. Only 137 officers were deployed in the area despite there being an expectation that around 100,000 people would go through the narrow alleyway. As a result, the official death toll stands at 156 lives lost.
This being South Korea’s deadliest peacetime disaster, people are outraged that their safety went overlooked once again. The Sampoong Department Store Collapse in 1955 and the MV Sewol ferry tragedy in 2014 are all previous incidents where the people in charge did nothing to protect people despite the warning signs. In the Sampoong Department Store Collapse of 1995, staff reported to investigators that many of them alerted higher ups of cracks in the walls hours before the building collapsed, killing 500 victims. In MV Sewol ferry in 2014, footage captured showed the students were aware of the danger they were in. Students were told to stay on the ship, within the lower deck, while it was sinking due to overloading. The death toll reached 304 deaths, 250 of those high school students.
South Korea has been in mourning of the preventable deaths. On November 5th, the community held candlelight vigil as well as rallies to commemorate the tragic loss of 156 young people, 26 of them being foreigners. Following the tragedy, a sportscenter also held items of the victims and laid them out for the items to be claimed by the victims’ relatives. South Korea has canceled all their entertainment events and flying flags at half-mast due to being in a current state of national mourning.