South Korean police officers face backlash for Itaewon Halloween tragedy


On Nov.1, South Korean government officials apologized for failing to prevent the Halloween crowd surge that killed 156 people. 

National police chief Yoon Hee Keun admitted there were many urgent calls from citizens notifying authorities about the potential danger of the crowds gathering in Itaewon. Their failure to respond briskly left the entire nation shocked and angry. 

“I couldn’t sleep the day the incident was reported.” Vivienne Chung (12), resident near Itaewon district, said. “The sirens of ambulances echoed through my entire neighborhood even after past midnight. I’ve never heard an ambulance siren go on for that long. I literally had goosebumps the entire night.” 

On Nov. 2, activists and political groups rode on this wave of anger with at least seven protests near the capital. Protestors railed against the government and talked about the nation’s misplaced priorities on safety and police authority. 

Candlelight Action—the largest political group involved—organized several protests against President Yoon for the Itaewon tragedy. Dressed in black clothing and wearing face masks, crowds silently marched down City Hall to send prayers. Two lanes of a major road were blocked off to accommodate tens of thousands of protestors.

Apart from the Candlelight Action protests, there were also activists who held white chrysanthemums, a flower that symbolizes grief in Korean culture, to mourn for this fatal tragedy. Others rallied with a flickering sea of candles at night. Both were methods of protest similar to those held in response to the Sewol Ferry incident. 

“It’s very sad and quite unbelievable that such a massive protest is happening again,” Taejoo Lee, mourner of the Halloween tragedy, said. “I hope the government works to genuinely reflect on their policies surrounding police authority to create change and protect the safety of Korea.”