The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
On the night of Oct. 29, 2022, what was meant to be a fun Halloween celebration turned into something darker as over 150 people died in a devastating crowd crush. Multiple sources say that a majority of these tragedies were young people in their twenties, excited for a night of celebration with friends and acquaintances after being unable to party due to COVID-19 restrictions. After a few identities were revealed due to victims being public figures, international fans and k-netizens alike went wild with grief over the loss of not only South Korea’s waning youth but friends and colleagues that they had come to know and love.
Itaewon is a commonly known party spot in South Korea, known for its lively nightlife and overall youthful trendiness. Popularized internationally by the break-out Korean drama Itaewon Class, the neighborhood was known by South Koreans as a hotspot for festivals and celebrations, namely the Halloween festival, which occurred annually around the holiday weekend. Though the celebration had been postponed in recent years due to the pandemic, the festival still held significant prominence in Seoul’s youth population, perhaps even more so as people were eager to get out and return to the party central that Itaewon was known as. Itaewon’s close ties with COVID-19 trace back to an infamous outbreak in 2020 that left over 130 people infected, though there were over 5,500 people present that could have contracted the virus as well but did not come forward and admit it. This is the same scandal that k-pop stars Jungkook of BTS, Kim Mingyu of SEVENTEEN, Cha Eunwoo of ASTRO, and Jung Jaehyun of NCT found themselves caught in, as they were among the 5,500 that were present during the outbreak. All four idols had to release public apologies for endangering the public by refusing to follow COVID-19 restrictions and laws.
Despite this, Itaewon remained a beloved and well-known area of Seoul that people flocked to, whether it was for the nightclubs, the inclusivity in a predominantly conservative country, or a change of scenery. Until the night of the 2022 Halloween celebration, all was well.
According to people who were there on the night of the tragedy, there were simply too many people in one place at the same time. It became impossible for people to move through sloping, small alleyways because of the sheer amount of bodies that were trying to get by simultaneously. Once people started pushing and falling, it became apparent that there was no way of getting out. There was nowhere to go once you were trapped in the crowd. Witnesses that had arrived early stated that it was already crowded early on before the festival was even due to begin. Some people left early because of the crowded scene and have spoken out about how thankful they feel to have been able to even get out.
Though police officers were dispatched, witnesses say that there were not nearly enough officers to control the masses of people that disobeyed instructions, purposely or not. People who called the police also said that officers were not sent down in time, assuming that they deemed the Itaewon celebration as nothing serious, probably a rowdy party that went slightly out of control. They didn’t know how bad it had gotten, and their lack of preparation and seriousness led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
Of the many victims, Korean news sites released information about the death of rising actor and previous contestant on the reality show “Produce 101,” Lee Jihan. Many popular Korean celebrities who had befriended the young actor and idol expressed their grieving on social media. Other victims included foreign students Steven Blesi, Grace Rached, Stine Roalkvam Evensen, Madina Sherniyazova, Afagh Rastmanesh, and Anne Gieske. Korean citizens Shin Aejin and Choi Boseong were also revealed to have been killed in the tragedy. Grieving family members and friends have come forward with brave statements and memories of their loved ones.
They have expressed their anger, their sadness, and their raw emotions over the tragedies. Many blame the police, many blame the president, and many blame the citizens that were there that night.
Korean celebrities such as Kim Seokjin (BTS’ Jin), Kim Gyuri, Son Heung-min, and Sam Hammington posted about the tragedy. Many popular events, such as SM Entertainment’s annual Halloween party, ABYSS’ BamBam and Sunmi’s Halloween event, and the Busan One Asia Festival Concert, were canceled. Various fansigns and content releases from artists such as aespa, NMIXX, TXT, and EXO’s Chen were also pushed back or canceled to honor the victims.
We at Her Campus stand with the victims and their loved ones, and we send our love to those who have been impacted by this tragic event.