On the 29th, it will be exactly one year since the October 29 Itaewon disaster occurred. The incident in which 159 young people were killed and 320 injured while enjoying the Helloween festival in the middle of Seoul was shocking in itself. A series of issues were raised about the police’s poor response to the accident and the district office’s lax safety management.
However, along with the controversy over ‘higher-level responsibility’, the National Assembly investigation ended in failure amid political strife between the ruling and opposition parties. The prosecution sent former Yongsan Police Chief Lee Im-jae and Yongsan-gu Mayor Park Hee-young to trial in January, holding them responsible for failing to prevent the accident and respond to the disaster.
MBC obtained and analyzed the investigation records of this case. The total record alone amounts to about 12,000 pages. There were 161 reports summarizing the details of the investigation, as well as statements from 169 people, including police officers, firefighters, civil servants, survivors, and witnesses. We looked at what the problem was and what excuses the people in charge made.
Park Hee-young “An event without an organizer… Preparing for it is an abuse of power”
It was confirmed that District Mayor Park Hee-young did not admit responsibility for various reasons during the prosecution investigation in January, immediately after her arrest. District Mayor Park stated, “There were no visitors to the Halloween festival and it was not a local festival, so there was no need to establish a safety management plan.” Two days after the disaster last year, he said in front of MBC cameras, “Halloween Day is not a festival, but a kind of ‘phenomenon’” and did not move a single step from the position that since there is no organizer, there is no management responsibility.
District Mayor Park also passed the responsibility on to the police, saying, “Crowd management and crowd control are the police’s duties.” At the same time, he said, “It is rather an abuse of power to make preparations without any authority.” As the district mayor, he claims that since he is not supposed to do police work, it would be a crime if he took on safety management to prevent accidents.
The only thing District Mayor Park acknowledged in his statement to the prosecution was that, as stipulated by law, he was the head of the agency responsible for disaster management. The prosecutor pointed out that anyone in charge of disaster management has an obligation to establish a safety management plan that reflects regional characteristics, but District Mayor Park denied this, citing 12 reasons.
Park Hee-young, who presented 12 defense arguments, said, “I am not God.”
Even the investigative prosecutor seemed frustrated and asked, “I didn’t prepare anything and didn’t check the status of preparations with the deputy district mayor, so wasn’t that a mistake?” Mayor Park responded, “I am not God.”
She asked, “Didn’t people come because they didn’t know that an accident would happen?” and “I’m not a god, so how can I predict it?” At the same time, she continued her statement to the effect that it was unfair, saying, “Did society make a prediction, or did the media make a prediction when they published the article?”
On the day of the incident, staff in the duty room, which was supposed to double as the disaster situation room, were collecting rally flyers up to the time of the incident under the instructions of District Mayor Park. The city of Seoul attempted to inform Yongsan-gu Office five times of the accident, but the connection was not possible.
District Mayor Park stated, “If I had known, I would have run away, but I wonder what on earth they did to end up like this.” “I didn’t know,” he said, putting the blame on his employees and saying, “I did everything I could.” However, he told the prosecution that he was “praying several times a day for the bereaved families” and that he would “continue to meet and comfort them in the future.”
“The riot squad arrived in 15 minutes… We could have saved more.”
It was revealed that even though 11 112 reports saying ‘I think I will be crushed to death’ were received just before the October 29 Itaewon disaster, there was no proper response. The police and prosecutors questioned one by one why the report was closed without on-site action. Investigation records revealed blind spots in the police 112 system, which did not function properly on the day of the accident. Unlike the ‘pressure report’ that is often received in crowded situations, it contained a specific situation saying that “rescue is in progress,” and the reason why the disaster could not be prevented even though the 112 situation room assigned code 0, the highest level of urgency, was revealed.
After 22:15 on the night of the disaster, even after reports of “we are being crushed to death” and “please come quickly,” the commanders on the scene made a late decision. The Special Investigation Headquarters of the National Police Agency analyzed the process by which the 11th Mobile Unit, which was nearby, arrived at the scene of the accident at approximately 11:40 p.m., about an hour after the accident, in the investigation report <Analysis of detailed status of career operation and review of causality of stampede accident>. The mobile unit, which was working as a base in Jongno, arrived at the scene in 17 minutes짱구카지노 주소 and in Yeouido in 20 minutes, even after receiving late orders.
The investigation report determined that if the Yongsan Police Station had immediately ordered mobilization at around 10:32 p.m. when it learned of the accident, it would have been possible for the riot squad to be deployed to the scene in 15 minutes, at around 10:47. In fact, there was a victim who survived until 11:01 p.m., about 40 minutes after the accident, and reported it to 119, but it was found that he died after a late rescue. The report said, “After the accident occurred, there was negligence in quickly assessing and disseminating the situation and not requesting experience from the riot squad, resulting in greater casualties.” However, in order to hold legal responsibility, the time and location of death must be specified one by one, but this could not be confirmed due to fragmented records, so this matter could not be brought to trial.
One year has passed since the results of the analysis of the October 29 Itaewon disaster records were released. The injured who survived the disaster call themselves survivors. Joohyun Lee, who met with MBC on the 16th, 15 days before the first anniversary of the disaster, said, “The wounds on my pelvis and calf remain as scars and I don’t think they will go away for the rest of my life,” and appealed, “Please don’t forget us.” Former investigator Park Sang-eun, who participated in the April 16 Sewol Ferry Disaster Special Investigation Committee, said, “The golden time for the investigation has passed,” but pointed out, “We need to look again at the facts revealed in the investigation and think about how to change the system.” I did.
To mark the first anniversary of the disaster, MBC analyzed 12,000 pages of investigation records. It contained detailed facts that had not been made public. We looked into the reasons why the belief in the country that “if you report a danger, it will help you” has been broken. The investigation records also included complacency and neglect of work by public officials. Above all, we have summarized the excuses made by those who are responsible. We will report the results of the analysis and the stories of survivors one by one through <News Desk> this week.