S. Koreans ashamed over security failures in Halloween tragedy


SEOUL, South Korea — When Kim Kap Soo watched stay broadcasts of the harrowing Halloween celebration crush that killed greater than 150 folks in Seoul final weekend, there was shock and unhappiness — but in addition the embarrassed realization that this wasn’t the primary time he’d seen South Korea undergo a devastating catastrophe because of official incompetence and security failures.

“My heart is aching very much. We are among the world’s 10 largest economies, and I totally don’t understand how this can happen in our nation,” stated Kim, 73, a retired environmental engineering researcher. “Our public insensitivity to safety is too severe. We should always be careful about everything, but we don’t do so, and I think that’s the biggest problem.”

The group crush Saturday in Itaewon, a well-liked nightlife district, has induced an outpouring of public sympathy towards the lifeless, largely of their 20s and 30s, and calls for for accountability for the tragedy. However many additionally share a powerful feeling of embarrassment and anger that their nation, a cultural and financial powerhouse that has risen from conflict, poverty and dictatorships, nonetheless ignores security and regulatory points.

Comparable crowd crushes have occurred in different developed nations in recent times, however the demise counts there have been a lot smaller than in Itaewon, the place 156 folks died and 187 have been injured.

There are rising questions right here about why South Korea hasn’t discovered its classes for the reason that 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol, which killed 304 folks — largely youngsters on a college journey. That catastrophe additionally prompted nationwide soul-searching on the nation’s failure to implement security and regulatory guidelines.

“When it comes to public safety, I think we aren’t an advanced nation at all, though we might have grown economically,” stated Park You Nam, 60, who runs a jewellery store in Seoul. “I feel really sorry and guilty for those young victims because we all failed to protect them.”

From Okay-pop superstars BTS and Netflix’s megahit drama “Squid Game” to Samsung-made smartphones and Hyundai automobiles, South Korea’s latest cultural and financial achievements have been outstanding. However there’s a darkish facet to its breakneck rise from the intense poverty of the 1950 and 60s: Critics say fundamental security practices, social security nets and minority voices have been largely neglected.

Not a lot has modified for the reason that ferry sinking, these critics say, citing a sequence of smaller lethal incidents similar to fires and boat accidents.

On Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol acknowledged that South Korea lacks research on crowd administration and ordered officers to formulate efficient crowd management strategies based mostly on high-tech assets similar to drones. Police additionally stated they don’t have pointers to take care of crowd surges at occasions that haven’t any official organizers, just like the Halloween festivities in Itaewon.

Park Sangin, a professor at Seoul Nationwide College, stated the Itaewon crush confirmed that South Koreans haven’t completed a lot to enhance techniques and insurance policies to forestall comparable man-made disasters just like the ferry sinking. He stated South Koreans have targeted as an alternative on discovering, criticizing and punishing anybody accountable every time an incident happens.

“For a country that has experienced many safety-related incidents, there should have been diverse studies and countermeasures to prevent their recurrences and that’s the responsibility of government officials and politicians,” Park stated. “But they haven’t done so, and I think it’s more important to criticize them to get things changed.”

What precisely induced Saturday’s crush remains to be underneath investigation. However it occurred when greater than 100,000 partiers clad in Halloween costumes and others packed Itaewon’s alleys. Police dispatched solely 137 officers to the neighborhood, largely with a mission to take care of attainable crimes similar to narcotics use, not crowd management. Police additionally acknowledged Tuesday that they had obtained a few dozen emergency calls from residents concerning the impending crowd surge however didn’t deal with them successfully.

The catastrophe has left many South Koreans with emotions of trauma.

Witnesses stated that folks fell on one another like dominos, screamed, suffered extreme respiratory difficulties and misplaced consciousness whereas crammed right into a sloped, slim alley. TV footage confirmed folks frantically giving CPR to victims mendacity immobile close to a row of lifeless our bodies lined by blue blankets.

“When I first saw such things on TV, I thought they were happening in a foreign country, not here,” stated Kim Suk Hee, 40, an actual property agent. “I was so stunned to learn that it was Itaewon, because I had actually planned to go there with my family for Halloween the next day. I still have trauma over what happened.”

Jang Seung-Jin, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin College, stated the Itaewon crush proved once more that South Korea nonetheless has an extended approach to go to turn out to be a sophisticated nation in all features. He stated what’s essential now’s how the nation will deal with the aftermath.

For the reason that catastrophe, some prime officers have been severely criticized over feedback that have been seen as attempting to keep away from authorities duty for the crush and even joking about it.

A public survey taken after the catastrophe exhibits President Yoon’s approval score is about 30%, a really low price given he took workplace solely six months in the past.

His future reputation might rely on how he handles the Itaewon tragedy, stated Choi Jin, director of the Seoul-based Institute of Presidential Management.

At a Seoul mourning middle, Vietnam conflict veteran Park Younger-kee, 82, laid white flowers and bowed to the reminiscence of the lifeless, together with a distant relative who was a highschool scholar.

“This kind of disaster didn’t happen when I was young. I can’t describe how I feel,” Park stated. “This occurred because we are not an advanced country. If we are really an advanced country, could it have happened?”

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