Public anger continues to build as mourners gather across Seoul to hold vigil over deadly Itaewon crush

Thousands gathered near Seoul’s city hall on Saturday to commemorate the 156 people killed during the Halloween crush in Itaewon last weekend.

At the vigil, people carried placards that demanded that president Yoon Suk-yeol step down for failing the youth of the country. There was anger and disappointment and grief for the victims of the crush that killed 156 people on 29 October.

At least 196 others were reportedly injured in the deadly stampede at Itaewon district in Seoul when huge crowds of people gathered for Halloween parties.

So far, the authorities have launched an investigation and the national police chief has apologised, along with President Yoon, who promised that he will improve crowd control measures.

At least seven vigil-protests were held across the capital and the biggest one was organised outside Seoul’s city hall by a group called Candlelight Action. The BBC reported that at the vigil, one placard read: “Stepping down is an expression of condolence.”

One speaker said: “Although the government clearly has responsibility, it is looking for perpetrators from irrelevant organisations… the incident occurred because the government did not play its very basic role.”

“Step down, Yoon Suk-yeol’s government! Step down, Yoon Suk-yeol’s government!” the crowd chanted, waving their candles and placards, according to reports.

Different religious leaders spoke during the candlelight vigil on Saturday. According to the Guardian, one person’s placard read “the people are dying, do you call this a country?” and another read “Your resignation is our grief”.

The victims of the Halloween crush were mostly young people. They were among an estimated 100,000 people who gathered in the Itaewon party district to celebrate the first Halloween post-pandemic.

Besides the public, opposition politicians in the country have also expressed anger at the government for not taking due accountability.

On Friday, Mr Yoon expressed his “deep sadness and sorry heart” and said that “I know that our government and I … have a huge responsibility to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.” Many at the vigils on Saturday were also demanding an apology from him.