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Local opinions of Halloween a year after the devastating tragedy in Itaewon

Halloween of 2022 still remains an open wound for Korean society after the massive crowd crash that took place in Itaewon that night. The accident took away more than 150 people’s lives and left dozens of young people requiring medical assistance. The crush spread all over the media and the entire world sympathized with Korean society, which held several

mourning events across the country.


Hand written messages of support in the alleyway where the crowd crush took place, in Seoul.Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Imags
Hand written messages of support in the alleyway where the crowd crush took place, in Seoul.Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Imags

After a year, the Korean society still remembers what happened and keeps raising awareness of the importance of having proper security measures this year, as some families and friends remain under psychological treatment to overcome the difficult situation of losing their loved ones.


The debate on what to do on Halloween sparked controversy among Korean Society. While some think that they should go out top Itaewon keeping a safe distance from everyone, others think that going out is still disrespectful to the victims.


(*Note: We would like everyone to be courteous and respectful of the following interviewees. These are their opinions alone and do not reflect the opinions of everyone else.)


Itaewon has been the typical place to celebrate Halloween


It is not new that Itaewon is the most international neighborhood in Seoul. Starting from having one of the 1st military bases in the country, to now hosting most expats in Seoul, Itaweon has always been a place for cultural exchange in the South Korean capital. Therefore, it was there where the at the time “new” Western festivities started to take place.


Visitors return to Itaewon, a year after the tragedy,  on Saturday (Thomas Maresca/UPI)
Visitors return to Itaewon, a year after the tragedy, on Saturday (Thomas Maresca/UPI)

“I have celebrated Halloween in Iteaewon many times, so I do not discard celebrating there this year,” says Seung Hyun Bang, a South Korean student in Seoul who was there the day of the crash. “I remember having a hard time then, but if my friends want, I would be still down for it” adds Bang.


Like him, many South Koreans believe that this year, celebrating Halloween is possible if everyone is more careful and follows security measures. Bang says that he doesn’t think a crush would be repeated. “I think Korean society learned a lot that day, and authorities are also paying more and more attention to these situations, so I think this Halloween will be safe”.


A sign at Itaewon subway station directing crowd control (Thomas Maresca/UPI)
A sign at Itaewon subway station directing crowd control (Thomas Maresca/UPI)

“I think Korean society learned a lot that day, and authorities are also paying more and more attention to these situations, so I think this Halloween will be safe”.

— Seung Hyun Bang, a South Korean student at last year's Halloween in Itaewon


Preference for private gatherings this year


Oda Josefine, a Norwegian exchange student in Seoul explained to Dojeon Media her experiences as a newcomer to the country. “I was not in Korea the day of the tragedy, but when I came here, I noticed how people are still touched by that, so rather than going to crowded places, we decided to have a private celebration at a friend’s house,” she says.


Many locals would not go to clubbing places as well, especially Itaewon, not out of fear of a crowd crush, but because they do not feel like partying. “I think a private gathering is a nice way to celebrate, we have other nights to go clubbing, and I can tell that people feel more comfortable celebrating this way. The important thing is being together, after all,” explains Josefine.


“I was not in Korea the day of the tragedy, but when I came here, I noticed how people are still touched by that, so rather than going to crowded places, we decided to have a private celebration at a friend’s house,”

— Oda Josefine, a Norwegian exchange student


For the people who were there on the day of the tragedy, the situation is still hard to this day. Elby Novanda, an Indonesian student at SNU (Seoul National University) who was at Itaewon on the night of the crash, feels more comfortable staying home this Halloween. “I am not going out on Halloween night this year, I think it is inappropriate. I didn’t even bother to ask my friends what their plan was for that night” he explains.


A modest crowd walks through the streets of Itaewon during Halloween weekend (Thomas Maresca/UPI)
A modest crowd walks through the streets of Itaewon during Halloween weekend (Thomas Maresca/UPI)

“I really enjoy going out on Itaewon but think that in the next few years, I think I will feel better staying at home for Halloween,” says Jung Wan Seop, a young South Korean living in Seoul. However, social media can also be an important factor in people’s preferences, Jung explains that “depending on what people post that night, it can influence the people from going or not going there”.


“I really enjoy going out on Itaewon but think that in the next few years, I think I will feel better staying at home for Halloween,”

— Jung Wan Seop, a young South Korean living in Seoul


Whether to open or not: up to the bars


Days after the night of the tragedy, most bars expressed their condolences on social media and even remained closed for some days. While some others saw this as a good thing, many citizens started to re-activate Itaewon’s nightlife to support the small bars that were about to

close due to customer shortage.


More than 1,200 Seoul police officers were deployed on Halloween weekend to crowded areas including Hongdae (Thomas Maresca/UPI)
More than 1,200 Seoul police officers were deployed on Halloween weekend to crowded areas including Hongdae (Thomas Maresca/UPI)

This year, the decision of opening is up to the owner, some of them will open to the customers, just like they always have, while others will close to express their condolences and pay respect to the victims. However, in other popular crowded areas, such as Itaewon or Hongdae, most bars will be open as they expect more people than usual since people would try to avoid Itaewon and go somewhere else.


Police to raise security measures


Since last year, crowd control has been an important topic in Korean politics and society. Not only for important dates like Halloween, but also on a regular basis in, for example, tourist places. It is for that reason that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has established a safety plan to install crowd-managing technologies in the important streets of the capital. These brand-new cameras are able to detect how many people are in one place so that the authorities can easily know when the population density is too high and act in a fast

and efficient way.


Let us know your thoughts about Halloween this year in the comments below! Will you be celebrating it traditionally or staying home?


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