Deadly Accident in Itaewon: Raises Concern for Crowd Crushes

Amy Kim and Chanho Lee

On a Saturday night full of Halloween festivities in the South Korean capital, tragedy struck. With over 100,000 people taking to the narrow streets, the immensely packed roads consequently led to a stampede that killed 150 people—most of whom were young, ranging from teenagers to people in their forties. In addition, 26 of the victims were foreigners from 15 different countries, sparking international shock.

With South Korea easing social distancing and lockdown regulations from the beginning of this year, there was a need for the Itaewon district to transition back to its past entertainment aspects. Known for its nightlife and international influence, Itaewon is a commercial area full of restaurants and social vibrance where many citizens and tourists spend time. Although not a holiday traditionally celebrated by Korean people, Halloween is a time for creative expression and art that is highly anticipated for those living in Itaewon. With this year’s awakening into social life, much chaos was expected at the Halloween event, but a fatal stampede was not. 

Halloween is a time for creative expression and art that is highly anticipated for those living in Itaewon.

CRLS math teacher Ms. Helen Shin expressed her thoughts on the incident to the Register Forum, stating, “[The Itaewon crowd crush] was a very tragic incident, and disappointing that something like this would happen on what was supposed to be a fun holiday weekend.” Shin accounts the scale of the incident to the pandemic, saying, “After the long years in quarantine, there is an air of excitement in enjoying events like Halloween again and that might’ve played a role in how big this tragedy was.”  

Looking at other events across the globe involving crowd crushes, there is a common trend of extreme exhilaration. An example is the 2021 Astroworld festival by Travis Scott which left many dead and injured. Ben Davis ’23 commented on the similarities between the two events, stating to the Register Forum, “It definitely gives off the same vibe as the Travis Scott thing that happened.” He corroborates Shin’s previous points about coming back from isolation, continuing with, “They have to compensate for the additional pressure from people coming back from the pandemic restrictions and people want to get out more. Crowd crushes occur when people are too caught up in the moment so they’re not paying enough attention to what’s happening around them, like a mass craze.” Naeema Hassan ’25 also spoke on this situation, saying, “Events like these are definitely accidental. The crowd crush in Seoul was very tragic, and I don’t think it happened on purpose, but it was a matter of circumstances due to the catastrophic amounts of people that came out.” 

 In a post-pandemic time, an increasing social life and excitement are a necessity for many. However, this mass enthusiasm can blind people to danger. And for the Itaewon community, families continue to mourn for the lives of the many young people that were taken in this unprecedented tragedy.

This article also appears in our November 2022 print edition.