Halloween crowd surge in South Korea causes more than 150 deaths


The Morning Calm/Creative Commons

ITAEWON IS A NEIGHBORHOOD of South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul. Well-known for its bustling shopping and dining scene, Itaewon hosts a Halloween celebration where the tragic deaths occurred.

Marianna Gu, Lead Features Editor

On Saturday night, a deadly incident happened in Seoul and took away more than 150 lives, the deadliest peacetime incident in Korea since the sinking of MV Sewol. The Itaewon district is known to be a popular place for Halloween celebrations given its stylish restaurants and clubs, but this year, the supposedly cheerful and exciting festival ended with dozens of dead bodies lying on the side of the streets. 

Right outside exit two of the Itaewon subway station, as many as 100,000 people crowded the narrow alleyway. The deadly crowd crush began with people on the back pushing forward and people on the front pushing back. Then someone at the front fell and the rest of the crowd collapsed like dominoes, one piling onto another. Kim Seo-jeong, a victim who survived the crowd crush, said, “We shouted and screamed for help, but the music was so loud in the alley our shouts were drowned.” 

While some blamed the government for lacking to deal with crowd management and planning for such festivities, others think that the end of the pandemic is the main reason for the unusually large number of people who poured into the narrow streets of Itaewon. 

Senior Youri Lee who was born and bred in Korea said, “For the past two years, we couldn’t go out to celebrate Halloween because of Korea’s strict quarantine policy, so people just really want to go out and most of them are college students.” 

Some members within the Masters community are closely attached to the incident. Eileen Kang, ‘26’ who is from near Itaewon said, “Because I attended international school and was exposed to foreign cultures, I have many foreign friends who live in Itaewon. As soon as the news came out, I texted one of my friends who went to the parade and she didn’t reply. So for a few moments, I went as far as thinking she might have been one of the victims, and I was actually freaking out, but later she texted back saying she was fine.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Choi Jae-won, a senior Seoul health official, predicted that the death toll could continue to rise as police and medical workers are still performing resuscitations to people sprawling on the street.