South Korea commemorates first anniversary of Itaewon crush

Relatives of the young victims said their pain has not subsided. Attendees at the event demanded that senior officials be held accountable over the disaster, which killed 159 people

Thousands of people turned up to commemorate the victims and demand government accountability (photo: DW)
Thousands of people turned up to commemorate the victims and demand government accountability (photo: DW)
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DW

Family and friends of those who died in the last year's Halloween crush in Seoul marked the first anniversary of the devastating event on Sunday.

A total of 159 people — mostly in their 20s and 30s — died in the crush, which happened amid Halloween festivities in the popular Itaewon nightlife district.

At the anniversary, thousands of attendees marched through the streets and later shouted "We'll remember you" as the victims' names were called.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I couldn't protect you. I loved you," said Song Jin Young, the father of one of the victims.

Cho Mi-eun, whose 24-year-old son died in the crush, said she experienced depression because she had been unable to mourn his death.

"As time goes by, my sadness only deepens, my longing grows, and my anger also seems to deepen," she told the AFP news agency after visiting her son's remains.

Yoon a no-show

Attendees also demanded South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol offer a more sincere apology, chanting "Apologize! Apologize!" during the event.

The families of the victims said they had invited Yoon to the memorial ceremony but he did not turn up.

Instead, he attended a service for the victims at a church in Seoul.

"This day last year was the saddest day of my life, and I believe everyone in South Korea feels the same way as me," Yoon said during a speech at the church.

Commemorating the anniversary, the families visited the Itaewon area, while attendees also called on Safety Minister Lee Sang-min to resign over the disaster.

In January, a police special investigation found that police and local officials anticipated a large turnout on Halloween but failed to implement effective crowd control measures. It also found that police had ignored hotline phone calls by concerned pedestrians warning about the swelling crowds.

Although more than 20 police and officials are reportedly on trial over the disaster, so far no top-level officials have been held accountable.

Families of the victims and opposition lawmakers have called for an independent investigation.

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