Seoul Police Chief Charged in South Korea Crowd Crush


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Prosecutors in South Korea have indicted the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency​, charging him with contributing through negligence to the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul in 2022​ that killed nearly 160 people, officials said.

The police chief charged on Friday, Kim Kwang-ho, is one of the most senior government officials to face criminal charges stemming from the episode, one of the worst peacetime disasters in South Korea’s history. The head of Yongsan District, the area of Seoul where the deadly event happened, was already facing similar charges.

Kim Kwang-ho, the Seoul police chief, in November 2022.Credit…Yonhap/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Oct. 29, 2022, thousands of young people packed into Itaewon, a popular nightlife neighborhood in central Seoul, to enjoy the first restriction-free Halloween weekend since the pandemic. Hundreds squeezed into a narrow​ and sloping alleyway from both ends, creating a suffocating squeeze in the middle.

Few police officers were on hand to control the crowd, even though the authorities had been warned ​in advance of the likelihood of an unusually large gathering and the potential for problems.​ As the crowd crush was happening, caller after panicked caller from the scene rang police and fire-department hotlines to describe crowds, chaos and danger. But help was slow to arrive.

A government investigation last year, ​led by the National Police Agency, ​left survivors and relatives of victims unsatisfied and angry. The central government said that it did not have responsibility for public safety ​in Itaewon that night because the Halloween festivities had not been formally organized, a response that drew scorn and ridicule from many South Koreans. ​Only a handful of ​mostly middle-ranking police and other officials ​were indicted on criminal negligence and similar charges last year, while top government officials, like the home minister, were cleared of wrongdoing.

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Seoul Police Chief Charged in South Korea Crowd Crush

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