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S. Koreans express mixed feelings towards commemoration of tragic accident in Itaewon

By Park Sae-jin Posted : October 17, 2023, 14:37 Updated : October 18, 2023, 17:33
YONHAP PHOTO
[YONHAP PHOTO]
SEOUL -- Various groups of South Koreans are expressing mixed feelings towards the commemoration of the tragic accident in a party district near central Seoul that took place on the eve of Halloween in 2022. A human stampede has taken the lives of 159 people and left dozens severely injured.
 
Halloween Eve on October 30, 2022, is remembered as one of South Korea's worst safety accidents. 159 people were killed and 76 others injured during a deadly stampede in Itaewon, a district near central Seoul, when more than 100,000 people flocked to the party district late at night to celebrate Halloween. According to firefighters, the majority of the victims were teenagers and in their 20s.
 
The tragic accident took place on a Saturday night at about 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT) when partygoers were flocking to the area near a subway station in Itaewon. Huge foot traffic was bottlenecked in a T-shaped sloped, narrow alley about four meters (13 feet) wide. According to witnesses, a person tripped over and more people fell over in human dominos.
 
The Halloween festival, held voluntarily by local shop owners, has been Itaewon's iconic annual event for more than a decade. The American tradition has settled into Seoul's party district, also well-known for its concentrated population of foreigners. Young people from different parts of South Korea flocked to Itaewon to participate in costume parties.
 
This year, young partygoers are looking for some other party districts to spend fun hours on Halloween night. Through social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and online communities, some young people in their 20s and 30s are locked in discussions about where they should go for costume parties.
 
"I am afraid that people might look at me as if I am an ignorant person, but I want to enjoy the festivities. I mean, I am not the only one thinking this way," Jeong, a businesswoman in her late 20s, told Aju Korea Daily. Refusing to reveal her first name, she said: "I know that some people would criticize me for this, but there's only one Halloween every year and I do not want to miss it."
 
Some young partygoers are risking criticism to gather in Hongdae, another party district famous for its small-sized music clubs for indie rock and hip-hop musicians, for this year's Halloween. Hongdae holds similar festivals a few times every year but the club district does not get as crowded as Itaewon because the moving population in the area is distributed to clubs, streets, and small parks.
 
While some young people wait for Halloween in silent excitement, older generations show confusion over youngsters' party plans. "Nobody celebrated Halloween in South Korea. It became a trend just about 10 years ago. I do not know what the fuss is all about. I think people should solemnly commemorate the victims of the last year's accident, for the good of the bereaved family members and shop owners in Itaewon," Kim Gui-hee, a 68-year-old housewife said.
 
Kim said that she understands young people's urge to party, but she pointed out that they should also know when to behave and respect other people. "Young people can party anywhere, any time. But, many people died last year and I do not think it's appropriate to celebrate the foreign holiday," Kim said.
 

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