Seoul’s police chief has been indicted for negligence over the 2022 crowd crush that killed more than 150 people during Halloween festivities in the popular Itaewon neighborhood that left the nation reeling.
South Korean police on Monday confirmed that Kim Kwang-ho, head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), had been indicted in connection with the tragedy – the most senior police officer charged over the incident.
A statement released on Friday said Kim was charged with “professional negligence resulting in injury or death,” Reuters reported.
According to police emergency call logs from the night of October 29, 2022, multiple calls from members of the public were made about overcrowding as early as four hours before the situation gravely worsened.
Four police dispatches were sent out to Itaewon, which had hosted Halloween celebrations in Seoul for years.
But crowds had already swelled and the streets became so packed that partygoers were unable to move. Some slipped below the feet of others, unable to breathe. Most who died that night were young South Koreans – largely in their teens and early 20s.
In the aftermath of the crush, South Korean authorities maintained that they had no guidelines to handle the huge crowds that gathered for the Halloween festivities – stirring anger among survivors and families of the deceased.
Public outrage turned toward South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his government – survivors and families of the victims remain strongly critical about what they see as a continuing lack of accountability on the part of South Korean authorities over the disaster.
Kim has not been dismissed from his position following the indictment, according to Seoul police.
His indictment comes after the arrest of two former officers in December on charges of destroying evidence relating to the disaster, authorities said.
The trauma of that night still haunts some survivors and bereaved families.
“For me, Halloween and the Itaewon tragedy are (inextricably) linked,” she said. “It’s impossible to see reminders everywhere and not think about the death of friends that night.”