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Halloween Tragedy in Seoul

The lack of both national and local safety policies for public gatherings in Seoul is directly responsible for the Halloween celebration turning tragic that Saturday, with a current death toll of over 150 and 82 injured. The tragedy could and should have been avoided, and the responsibility for the loss of life lies solely at the feet of the agencies who failed to create a safe event.

While the city did plan for the spread of the coronavirus, surrounding business safety and potential drug distribution during the event — they did not plan for the narrow streets and over 100,000 daily crowds that gathered for the Halloween celebration. This is despite the fact that this is not the first time the Itaewon district has hosted a Halloween event, along with the foreshadowing from Friday, with huge crowds that would continue to grow on Saturday. Even if the event was only meant to host one thousand people, there should have been safety measures put in place to prevent injury and death in the crowd. The potential risk for disaster and “crowd crushing” without those safety measures has never been more glaringly obvious than in a situation like the one in Seoul’s Itaewon district.

Officials in Seoul have launched an investigation to find whether the limited safety protocols set had been followed and where the crush began. However, after one of the most tragic events in recent South Korean history, the reason ‘why’ does not seem as important as the fact that it happened at all. The Korean government’s lack of responsibility in this tragedy has become apparent with their desperation to find any other reason responsible for the death toll other than them. Especially since, while this is the biggest loss of life that has been seen, it is not the first deadly incident that has happened in South Korea. Since 2017, the official Korean government has released data showing that over a dozen public events have had insufficient safety measures for the attendees which resulted in crowd crushing and stampedes.

It is not just the lack of official safety precautions, people are not taught safety techniques that they could implement in the event of overcrowding and injury. When the event began to get out of control, many people attempted to escape the growing crowds by entering businesses lining the streets but many turned them away leading to funneling crowds blocking any, and all exits.

There were many possible safety measures that could have been implemented to avoid the catastrophic events that occurred — administrative, local and personal. If even one had been successfully applied to the Halloween event, then the disaster that led to so much loss of life could have been avoided, even marginally. Without a drastic change to the way large gatherings are handled, it is inevitable to say that the death toll will only continue to rise.


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