The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Deadly Halloween festivities in Seoul leave at least 153 people dead

South Korea Halloween Surge // Lee Jin-man // AP // bought by the contributor
The night of the incident ushered many emergency vehicles to Itaewon.

Content warning: This article includes mention of death, mass panic, and illicit substances. 

On Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, over 100,000 people gathered in the district of Itaewon to celebrate Halloween. Later in the evening, a crowd surge led to at least 153 deaths and dozens of injuries, according to recent figures from Reuters.

Few would have thought that this would famously eccentric party scene would result in the largest peacetime tragedy South Korea has experienced in the past eight years.

According to Tanaya Clark, a current resident of South Korea who was engaged in the festivities, Itaewon is the typical hotspot for Halloween festivities, so it was expected that there’d be a large crowd. 

“Korea loves to party for Halloween, more young adults celebrate it than children,” Clark said. “Everyone wants to go to Itaewon because it’s known as a foreign neighborhood. Since Halloween is a foreign holiday, people are like ‘let’s go to the foreign district for the foreign holiday.’” 

However, this year, the crowds were even larger than usual.  

“This was our first Halloween in three years without restrictions. Last year, we had a curfew so by 9 p.m., everything had to be shut down,” Clark said. “This year, people really wanted the freedom and excitement of Halloween again which led to all those people being there.”

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“The stampede probably happened when all these people were pushing and being like ‘go-go-go, what are you guys doing’ and then when you push, people fall down and a domino effect will happen where everyone will be falling on each other,” Clark said. 

According to Melissa Limes, who was at Itaewon on that night, it was chaotic to the point that even the partygoers weren’t even aware of what was happening.

There were lots of firefighters and paramedics trying to clear the way. When I looked over the crowds up towards the top and the middle of that alley, all I could see there was a commotion,” Lime said. “We didn’t really know what was happening but police started climbing on top of cars and trying to get people to move.” 

Limes emerged safely, but she won’t be able to forget that night the desperation of the crowd, and how everyone’s emotions were in a frenzied state.

“After another surge, we were forced into the street (this probably saved us) and my friend was panicking,” Lime said. “We went to the opposite side of the street where the police station is and tried to calm down.”

According to Gonzalo Morales, a resident of South Korea, the city’s layout might have played a role in the tragedy.

“The stampede happened because although Itaewon is made up of many streets, people were jammed in an alley; I took a look at the alley this morning and it’s tiny and super steep and narrow,” Morales said. 

According to Clark, there have been multiple theories circulating as to what caused the chaos. 

“People were saying that there was a celebrity that showed up and that’s why so many people were rushing. Some people said there were drugs involved, and I heard other rumors that some people were just pushing for the fun of it to see what happened,” Clark said. 

Morales theorized that illicit substances could have played a role in the panic.

“My friends who were at Itaewon said that people were taking MDMA drugs, also known as ecstasy. People were giving the colorful pills away like candy,” Morales said. “It could be a contributor to why there’s so many dead.”  

The news broke to people in Korea on the night of the 29th. According to Clark, the first reports stated that there were 50 deaths but it rose as the hours passed. 

“I was at a hotel party when I got a text from my friend saying ‘oh my god are you okay’ and after that, just before midnight, the news broke. The numbers just went higher and higher, and it was crazy,” Clark said.

However, the biggest issue that both Morales and Clark noticed was the lack of crowd control, which they believe caused the mob of people to get out of hand. 

They were both in Hongdae, a neighborhood near Itaewon that attracted similar crowds. Both areas had little to no regulation last night.

“There were way too many people and no control at all. I’ve never seen anything like it – it was terrible,” Morales said. “In general, at other events, there will at least be signs and policemen standing around, but here, it seems like authorities didn’t care at all.” 

Many citizens are upset at the government for the lack of regulation. According to Lime, the government regulation was substandard compared to previous years. 

Apparently, there were thousands of police stationed in Itaewon in previous years as opposed to a hundred,” Limes said. “There were clearly too many people trying to get to the main party street with zero control over the numbers and passage of the crowds. Everyone was trying to go to the same place from different directions.”

Morales, Clark, and Limes all believed that this incident could have been prevented if there was more regulations in the area. 

“Way more officers were needed that night; maybe they could have limited the number of people in the streets at one time since it’s such a popular area,” Clark said. “It would have been easier to control this big of a crowd.”

Sofia Akhiyat, a doctor, stumbled upon the scene on Saturday night and was immediately struck with terror at what she saw. 

I was led to a site and on the floor were 20 to 30 bodies. Everyone white, not breathing, and in cardiac arrest, and down the street was a pile of bodies.

— Sophia Akhiyat

“I was led to a site and on the floor were 20 to 30 bodies. Everyone white, not breathing, and in cardiac arrest, and down the street was a pile of bodies,” Akhiyat stated in a video she uploaded onto social media. 

Due to her medical background, she assisted in giving CPR and moving the bodies of the victims.

Because of all the chaos, there’s a list of missing people whose fates are unknown.

“There’s a missing person list because a lot of bodies can’t be identified. So you have to add somebody to the missing person list and then they can like double check and cross reference if that person is like the unidentified body like it’s there’s a lot going on right now with it,” Clark said. 

This incident will halt all Halloween festivities in South Korea as citizens will need time to mourn the victims. 

“The weekend is over so there will be no parties but especially now, even though Halloween is on a Monday, I don’t think anyone is going to say anything or make even a peep about it,” Clark said. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna celebrate Halloween on the actual Halloween day.”  

President Yoon Suk-Yeol of South Korea has declared a national mourning period in a national broadcast.  This is the largest amount of casualties in South Korea since the 2014 ferry incident.

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About the Contributor
Annabel Chia
Annabel Chia, Scot Scoop Features Managing Editor
Annabel Chia (class of 2024) is the Features Managing editor for Scot Scoop and is passionate about creating an impact through journalism. She especially enjoys exploring different elements of multimedia. You'll usually find her cooking, reading, or interning at the San Mateo Daily Journal. To check out her portfolio, click here. Twitter: Annabelchiaa

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Deadly Halloween festivities in Seoul leave at least 153 people dead