On October 29, 2022, the streets of Itaewon, Seoul, went from bustling with youngsters celebrating Halloween to witnessing a fatal crowd crush that claimed over 150 lives.
The tragedy was unprecedented, and almost all of the world watched in horror as clips of young people collapsed in the alleys of Itaewon kept surfacing virtually in real-time. It was evident that the incident would leave deep scars on the minds of those who experienced it first-hand. It turns out even the first responders couldn’t withstand such trauma, even after nearly a year.
According to the South Korean government data, the firefighters dispatched to the scene still suffer from the after-effects of the horrors they witnessed on October 29. Representative Oh Young Hwan of the main opposition Democratic Party revealed the records of the National Fire Agency, which said that around 1,316 firefighters who responded to the crisis a year ago are still seeking long-term treatments to address the various psychological impacts they experienced.
The Itaewon disaster was the deadliest crowd crush in the history of South Korea. It unfolded when a crowd of revelers unexpectedly became congested in a narrow alleyway leading to the streets, causing 159 deaths and leaving 196 others with severe injuries. Most of the victims were very young and were in Itaewon on that day to enjoy the Halloween festivities for the first time since COVID-19 had the globe quarantined.
Oh Young Hwan talked to the media about the current suffering of the rescue workers, emphasizing that they need proper resources and time to heal from the hurt.
Trauma is not something that can be resolved in a short period of time. Plenty of rest and treatment is necessary.
— Oh Young Hwan
Fortunately, the previous administration of South Korea already green-lit a state-run hospital that will be devoted to the physical and psychological treatment of firefighters. It is scheduled to open in 2025.
As 2023 moves forward to the one-year anniversary mark of the Itaewon stampede, bereaved families of the victims have announced that a set of memorials will be installed at the incident site and unveiled to the public on October 26.
The families of the deceased and the surviving victims are still demanding to enact a Bill that will kick off a special probe into the crowd crush. The measure is, however, still pending at the National Assembly.