Deadly Halloweekend in South Korea


“Guri South Korea Streets” by mmcclana24 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On Saturday October 29, 2022, 150 people died from a stampede in the streets of South Korea. This incident occurred in the Itaewon district of  the country’s capital, Seoul, on the weekend before Halloween. People were extremely happy to celebrate the holiday to the fullest for the first time since the spread of COVID-19. The specific district in Korea is known as a popular place for party-goers and clubbers year round. While it is known for being crowded on Halloweekend, nobody was prepared for the sheer number of citizens that charged and filled the narrow streets of Itaewon. 

There are many questions about how this incident even occurred, but it begins to make sense when thinking about the amount of people that traveled into this highly compacted area, and the restricted size of the streets. There were about 100,000 people entering this district at this time to enjoy a night of fun costumes and clubbing. The problem is the streets in Seoul are not like average city streets in the United States; they are catered more towards pedestrians rather than cars.

Since these thousands of people are traveling to a place where cars won’t have easy access to specific locations, they take the subway. On the specific streets and alleyways where the stampede took place, there was a subway station that led directly into the crowd. People didn’t know what they were walking into until it was too late. Many were crushed into walls while others were trampled from the sheer amount of people pushing and shoving and stampeding, trying to get out. The New York Times provided a 3D example of how the mass of people got congested.

It is easy to think from a wider perspective, if everyone had stayed calm, the authorities would have evacuated everyone, and a crisis would have been averted. But the panic from being stuck in a horde of people continuously snowballed until every person there was in a total, irrecoverable frenzy. Pictures have been spread all over the internet about this tragedy, many of which are difficult to view.

The question of whether this incident could have been avoided or not will be debated for years, as it was not one single person’s responsibility but rather the fault of low expectations and mass hysteria.