Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Families reject Seoul stampede report that finds ‘failures’ but stops short of blaming senior officials

Probe refers 23 people to prosecutors including mayor of Seoul’s Yongsan district

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 13 January 2023 09:09 GMT
Footage shows scale of crowd before Seoul Halloween stampede tragedy

Bereaved families of the crowd surge victims in Seoul last Halloween have rejected a report by South Korea’s authorities on Friday that blamed a lack of preparedness and an inadequate response behind the deadly stampede that killed 159 people.

On 29 October annual festivities in the popular nightlife area of Itaewon turned deadly after tens of thousands crowded into narrow alleyways to celebrate the first Halloween free of Covid-19 curbs.

“We have so many questions unanswered,” Lee Jong-chul, head of a group representing the bereaved families said to reporters on Friday.

“We came here to give a victim’s statement, expecting a better, expanded investigation.”

In a statement to BBC, Lee Jung-min whose daughter died in the stampede, said that the report was “cutting off the lizard’s tail to spare the head”.

“This means the interior minister, the national police chief, even the prime minister - they should all take responsibility,” he was quoted as saying.

Announcing the results of the 74-day investigation into the crowd surge, Sohn Je-han, who led the National Police Agency’s special probe, said: “Misjudgement of the situation, delay in sharing information and lack of cooperation among related agencies accumulated to cause large casualties.”

The probe has referred 23 people to prosecutors.

The police have sought criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter and negligence against the officials, about half of them law enforcement officers.

The officials indicted in the report include Park Hee-young, mayor of Seoul’s Yongsan district, and the district’s former police chief Lee Im-jae - two of the six who have been arrested.

Mr Lee has also been accused of falsifying a police report to disguise his late arrival to the scene.

Two other police officials have been arrested over suspicions they attempted to destroy computer files and other potential evidence tied to the accident.

The probe report comes as opposition parties and victims’ families have demanded investigations into more high-profile figures.

Interior and safety minister Lee Sang-min and National Police Agency commissioner general Yoon Hee-keun have faced calls to resign.

But Mr Son said the special investigation team will close its probe on the Interior and Safety Ministry, the National Police Agency, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, saying it was difficult to establish their direct responsibility.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in