Halloween disaster in South Korea: candlelight vigil to mourn victims – Times of India


SEOUL: candlelight vigil and gatherings expected in South Korea on Saturday to commemorate the 156 people who died in a Halloween mob, as public anger grew over one of the deadliest peacetime disasters in the country.
The victims, mostly young people, were among an estimated 100,000 who had flocked to the popular capital Seoul Itaewon entertainment district to celebrate the first Halloween after the pandemic.
South Korean law enforcement officials have admitted insufficient security planning for such a large crowd, and opposition politicians have charged President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government of not taking responsibility for the disaster.
Reflecting that anger, a woman identified by local media as the mother of one of the victims was seen tearing apart wreaths of flowers left behind by the Seoul president and mayor at a memorial on Friday.
“What’s the point of (these flowers) if they can’t protect (our children)? Think about it,” she said in images broadcast by local TV stations.
“What’s the point of standing next to these (wreaths) if you let our babies die?”
Uniformed police officers were then seen leading the woman away from the monument, which is located outside Seoul City Hall.
President Yoon joined other top officials on Friday — including the National Police Chief and the Secretary of the Interior — who apologized for the disaster.
“As a president responsible for people’s lives and safety, I am deeply saddened and sorry,” he said.
“I know that our government and I… have a huge responsibility to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.”
– Crowd management control – Yoon — who’s with the conservative People Power Party — has struggled with record-low approval ratings since taking office in May, and his political opponents are now targeting his government over the Halloween crush.
A citizen group with ties to the main opposition party would hold candlelight vigils across the country on Saturday night, including in Seoul, Busan, Gwangju and Jeju.
A group of young Koreans would hold a separate memorial service in downtown Seoul.
“I can’t believe people my age died just because they wanted to have fun on Halloween,” said Park Tae-hoon, 29, one of the organizers of that rally and a member of the progressive Jinbo political party.
“It was only yesterday that the president apologized,” he told AFP, adding that the aim of the march was to demand punishment for those responsible and take steps to prevent the tragedy from happening again.
South Korea is in a period of national mourning ending Saturday, with flags at half-mast and entertainment events cancelled.
Public scrutiny over how the Halloween crowd was managed is on the rise, and an extensive investigation is underway into the exact cause of the crush.
Because there was no organizer for the Halloween celebrations, the government did not require any of the bars, clubs and restaurants – some in Itaewon’s narrow alleys and side streets – to submit a safety management plan.
And while the police had estimated 100,000 people would participate, they deployed only 137 officers — compared to 6,500 sent to another part of Seoul that night for an anti-government protest of a fraction the size.

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