The Itaewon Halloween Tragedy

Jenna Cao, Editor-in-Chief


From the estimated 100,000 party goers celebrating Halloween on the night of Saturday, October 29th in the alleyways of Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea, 150 laid dead and 130 more injured the next morning. 


Due to the Covid pandemic, countries like South Korea have muted celebrations and festivities until this year, which some people are blaming for the influx of people that crowded the streets of Itaewon over Halloween. 


While Halloween is not a traditional holiday celebrated in South Korea, young adults still enjoy dressing up and partying in the streets of Itaewon, a popular district within the capital of South Korea that is known for their nightclubs and bars.


Saturday October 29th, marked South Korea’s first Halloween since mask and crowd size mandates were lifted in the country and Itaewon was hosting some of their largest outdoor Halloween celebrations since the start of the pandemic. 


As masses of people started to arrive at the scene to celebrate this holiday after the mandates had been lifted, the streets began to crowd and  witnesses report that it became difficult to breathe and impossible to move. People were pushing and shoving and quickly started to crumble “like dominoes,” as reported by survivors who also described the entire event as “hell-like.” 


Although a mass majority of people were getting squeezed, suffocated, trampled, and buried in the center of the alleyway, because of the loud blaring music, there were many partyers that were unaware of the horrors unfolding around them. People still partying, unaware of the situation made it difficult for ambulances and police to reach the people in need once they had been called.  Another problem that occurred during this situation that survivors recall is that being unable to tell the difference between the real police officers who were yelling at the civilians to clear the streets from those who were dressed up in costumes. 


On Sunday, October 30th, the day after this horrific event occurred, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol officially declared a national one-week mourning period from October 31st to November 5th. Currently in South Korea, flags at government buildings and public offices are being ordered to fly at half-staff to mourn and honor those who lost their lives during this event, especially young teenagers. 


In his televised speech, Yoon says, “This is really devastating. The tragedy and disaster that need not have happened [that] took place in the heart of Seoul amid Halloween (celebrations).”


As a response to the speech, some people are blaming the South Korea government for their apparent lack of authorities monitoring crowd volume and size which is what ultimately led to the deadly crushing in Itaewon. 


Although Lee Sang-min, the South Korean minister of the Interior and Safety says that this event is “not a problem that could have been solved in advance,” it has only fueled a greater response from some civilians. 


There is still backlash towards the Korean government for not anticipating the large crowd that presented itself at one of the most popular attractions catered towards young adults. This event was horrific and tragic and brings attention to the potential dangers that large cities and people face with the return of large festivities that are returning post-pandemic. 


In an amendment to his previous statement saying that authorities had only deployed a “normal” amount of security to Itaewon, Lee now says that a larger than normal  amount of security personnel were deployed to the scene to fight back against the verbal attacks from civilians. 


This event was horrific and tragic and brings light to potential dangers that large cities and people may have to face in the return of large festivities that are returning post-pandemic. The backlash the Korean government is facing from some civilians for “not anticipating” the crowd size that presented itself during Halloween in Itaewon should serve as a warning to our graduating Senior class that is about to embark on new adventures in the world where they will have the freedom to host and attend large events in the future.