January 27, 2023

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Halloween swarm in Seoul: South Korean police officers arrested in deadly tragedy

Seoul, South Korea Eureka News Now —

Two former police officers accused of destroying evidence related to the deadly Halloween crowds in Seoul were arrested in South Korea on Monday, according to the country’s authorities.

The arrests of former Seoul municipal government intelligence officers Park Sung-min and Yongsan police officer Kim Jin-ho are the first in an ongoing investigation into the disaster that killed 158 people in October.

They allegedly ordered their subordinates to destroy an internal report on the risks posed by a large crowd that gathered in Itaewon during Halloween celebrations.

The two officers were fired from their posts back in November for their handling of the Itaewon incident. According to the arrest warrants for the couple, issued Monday by a Seoul court, prosecutors now have 10 days to file charges.

Most of those killed in the Oct. 29 crush were young adults and teenagers who were among tens of thousands of partygoers who flocked to Seoul’s Itaewon district to celebrate Halloween. Many became trapped as the narrow streets clogged, and survivors and witnesses said there was little police presence or crowd control until it was too late.

On Monday, the court also denied arrest warrants for former Yongsan police officer Lee Im-jae – who was the head of the station – and former emergency monitoring officer Song Byung-joo. Both are suspected of professional negligence in connection with the scramble with the dead and injured.

In rejecting the warrants, the court cited a low probability that Lee and Song would destroy evidence or flee. You will continue to be investigated.

After the disaster, a special police unit was formed to investigate what went wrong – with officers raiding police stations and offices across the capital, collecting internal police reports and documents about emergency calls.

According to those call logs, at least 11 911 calls — which were growing in urgency — were made to police for crowd control and then emergency services. The first calls came in four hours before the tragedy broke out.

Both local and national authorities have since faced mounting public anger and demands for accountability, with some people calling for President Yoon Suk Yeol to be removed over the tragedy.

A Eureka News Now reporter returns to Itaewon’s narrow alley a day after the Halloween disaster. See how it is

“I desperately ask the politicians of this country. If you are serious about the pain of the bereaved, you need to be honest. You must conduct a proper investigation and apologize to our children,” the mother of a 29-year-old victim said at a Nov. 22 news conference. With her son’s death certificate, she named the exact cause, time and place of his death. Death remained unknown.

Other bereaved parents at the press conference, represented by the non-profit organization Minbyun, described their own difficulties in the process; A father said it took him 17 days to contact other bereaved families and claimed the government was not providing adequate support.

When asked about these allegations, an official at the President’s Office said a thorough investigation “should be conducted” and that the government is considering further reparations and consolation “when the scope of responsibility and the offenders are clarified.”