Citizens Mourning The Itaewon Tragedy Get Comforted With Free Food And Flowers

Shop owners generously share their products to comfort the mourners and honor the victims of the Itaewon tragedy.

Mourners have been visiting Itaewon to pay their respects to the victims of the tragic incident on October 29.

The mourners formed a long line near Itaewon Station Exit 1, a few meters away from the alley, where 156 died, and 172 were injured. One by one, the mourners get a white chrysanthemum from a table and lay down the flowers on a memorial altar for the victims.

| Yonhap

The flowers were provided by Kim Seo Joon, a thirty-year-old man who runs a flower shop in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul. He gave more than three hundred white chrysanthemums for Itaewon for free. He explained why he was giving them away.

I have received numerous calls from customers looking for white chrysanthemums since Sunday. Many people’s voices were shaking with sorrow. I did not want to take money from them.

— Kim Seo Joon

He was sharing that he had lost a friend in the incident while catering to the line of people waiting for their turn with his chrysanthemums. Some had volunteered to help with rolling the flowers on tissue paper. Giving free flowers was his means to express his condolences to the victims and the families mourning for them.

No matter how much it costs, I will continue the donation for the time being. This is the best I can do to express my condolences to the victims and their families.

— Kim Seo Joon

The significance of chrysanthemum flower for mourning is a Korean custom. White chrysanthemums symbolize dignity and integrity, chosen for their resilience against the harsh cold weather, flowering after enduring late frosts.

More than a hundred restaurants and cafes near the crowd crush area voluntarily closed after the tragedy, except for one coffee shop, which had been brewing coffee that was not for sale. The cafe owner, surnamed Oh, has been brewing free coffee for police officers.

On Saturday night after the incident occurred, several customers came to buy coffee and other beverages for emergency workers carrying out rescue operations. I didn’t charge them. Since then, I’ve been providing free drinks for the officers from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

I can’t force somebody to express condolences over the tragedy, but I think it is a time to be supportive of each other. I am just doing what I can do in my field of work.

— Oh, coffee shop owner

Outside Seoul, a voluntary food-sharing crusade during the national mourning period has also been happening. Hwang, a thirty-seven-year-old bakery shop owner in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, has been giving away free cookies to console customers and passersby grieving over the Itaewon tragedy. He has been offering all beverages and pastries on his menu for ₩1,000 KRW (about $0.70 USD) until the weekend.


Source: The Korea Herald
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