The Itaewon Halloween Tragedy

Jiho Kim, Writer

On October 29th, 2022, Halloween festivities in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood resulted in a fatal crowd crush that left at least 150 people dead. Thousands of fully costumed partygoers rushed out into the nightlife district to enjoy one of the year’s largest festivals. Unfortunately, the night resulted in Korea’s worst recorded disaster, after the Sewol Ferry Disaster in 2014. 

Authorities first received reports of people being buried in crowds around 10:25 pm. Survivors and witnesses recall that the stampede happened out of nowhere and that people ended up stacked up onto each other like dominoes. This caused extreme difficulty for people to move around and breathe due to the hard pressure being applied in the crowd. A female survivor said that all she could hear were “the desperate screams of the people trying to survive”. 

The events from that Saturday night resulted in widespread shock and grief across the nation. President Yoon Suk-Yeol designated the entire city of Yongsan as a “special disaster zone” and promised citizens active financial support. In addition, President Yoon also declared a period of national mourning until all the after-effects of the disaster were completely resolved. Current US President Joe Biden expressed his condolences toward Korea’s situation and promised to stand by Korea during its hardest times. Now, the streets of Itaewon are lined with tributes to the victims who have sadly lost their lives. 

The tragic outcome of the night can be attributed to a lack of preparation by the government and event organizers. For the past three years, outdoor festivals and celebrations of large scales have been prohibited in Korea due to rigid COVID-19 restrictions. On the night of the tragedy, an estimated 100,000 people poured out onto the streets of Itaewon due to lightened restrictions. However, since it has been years since an event of such magnitude occurred, the government lacked the preparation to handle it— causing the nightmare stampede to flare up. Even though police officers, firefighters, and bystanders tried their best to help victims of the stampede through CPR, unfortunately, over a hundred young Koreans and foreigners passed away.

The devastating events of October 29th will be remembered forever in Korea. Our GSIS community sends condolences to all those affected by the tragedy.