Officials apologise for Seoul stampede
South Korean officials admitted responsibility and apologised on Tuesday for failures in preventing and responding to a Halloween crowd surge that killed more than 150 people and left citizens shocked and angry.
The government is facing growing public scrutiny over whether the crush on Saturday night in Seoul’s Itaewon district could have been prevented and who should take responsibility for the country’s worst disaster in years.
National police chief Yoon Hee Keun said an initial investigation found there were many urgent calls from citizens notifying authorities about the potential danger of the crowd gathering in Itaewon. He said police officers who received the calls failed to handle them effectively. “I feel a heavy responsibility (for the disaster) as the head of one of the related government offices,” Yoon said in a televised news conference.
“Police will do their best to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.” Yoon said the police have launched an intense internal probe into the officers’ handling of the emergency calls and other issues. Separately, South Korea’s interior minister, emergency office chief, Seoul mayor and the head of a ward office that includes the Itaewon neighbourhood all offered public apologies.
Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon apologised deeply and wept and briefly halted his news conference as he talked about the parent of a 20-year-old woman who was declared dead earlier in the day. “When I tried to comfort a person with a daughter hospitalised at the National Medical Center yesterday, they said their daughter would survive and they believed so,” he said. “But I heard she passed away this morning. I am sorry that my apology has come late.”