Halloween Party in South Korea


Kevin Han

On October 29th, over 150 died in a Halloween party in South Korea. Many people, including foreigners of various backgrounds, gathered around Itaewon, Seoul, a city famous for its nightlife and clubs. Witnesses claimed that more than 100,000 people filled the streets and alleyways of Itaewon. 

Nuhyil Ahammed, a 32-year old IT worker from India stated that “it was crazy. From 5pm there were too many people on the streets. So I was thinking, what’s it going to be like from seven or eight?” 

The police stated that they received 11 calls, starting from 18:34 to 22:11 [6:34 PM to 10:11 PM], just 4 minutes before the crush (the main cause of death) began to happen. They told the callers that they would deploy officers, but the police officers that were present (only 137 police officers were deployed) were there to control narcotic usage, not to control crowds. Later, the police stated that they couldn’t get the situation under control. According to BBC, “30 more ambulances were deployed [by 23:00, 11:00 PM], as well as more than 100 national disaster medical assistance teams, with all Halloween events being called off by authorities at 23:19 [11:19 PM].”

Witnesses recalled that ambulances and rescuers couldn’t get into the crowded alleys as the area was packed with slow vehicles as well as crowds of people in costumes. Various social media posts showed how crowded and packed the streets were, with many people attempting to climb the walls of the buildings to escape the crush. 

At around 22:15 [10:15 PM], people began to be crushed. Choi Jae-won, the health director of Yongsan District, said that most of the dead and injured were in their teens or 20s. According to the New York Times, “at least 149 people were killed and another 150 injured after they were crushed in a large Halloween crowd in Seoul on Saturday night, the city’s fire department said, in one of the deadliest peacetime accidents in South Korea’s recent history.” As the crowd began to panic, people began “falling on one another, suffering severe breathing difficulties and falling unconscious.”

According to the New York Times, a nurse who treated victims at the scene in the immediate aftermath told  a local broadcaster that “about 50 people laid out on the ground showed symptoms of cyanosis, or blue skin, or were bleeding from the nose or mouth.” She added that some of the victims “appeared to be bleeding from a fractured skull or had vomited…..adding most were without a pulse by the time she was on the scene around 11 p.m.”

“South Korea’s police chief admitted ‘a heavy responsibility’ for failing to prevent a recent crowd surge that killed more than 150 people during Halloween festivities in Seoul, saying Tuesday that officers didn’t effectively handle earlier emergency calls about the impending disaster,” said NPR in an article published a few days after the party happened. 

Yoon Suk Yeol, the president of South Korea, stated that South Korea lacks research on a crowd management and called for using drones and other high-tech resources to develop an effective crowd control capability. He said the government will soon hold a meeting with experts to review overall national safety rules, according to NPR.