November 11, 2022
SEOUL – The Korean government has pledged a major reform of police administration and the overall national safety system following the Itaewon Halloween tragedy.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Thursday the reform plans would be released next month.
“We will work on a pangovernmental disaster safety management system, major reform of police and crowd management measures by next month,” Han said at a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters.
Han’s pledge comes after the National Police Agency made an announcement concerning a major reform plan Wednesday. The agency has launched a task force to work on its chain of command and response system, after being attacked for its insufficient response to the incident.
“Task forces consisting of related government departments and experts are running,” he said. “We will come up with related measures so that a tragedy like this will never happen again.”
Han added the government will see that a thorough investigation on the incident is held and those related will take on the responsibilities.
All the funeral services for those who lost their lives in the incident will be wrapped up as of Friday, except for the transfer of the remains of the two foreign nationals.
Seoul Metropolitan Police added more officials to a list subject to dismissal related to the tragedy, removing them from their positions within the police ranks.
The Seoul police dismissed an official from the intelligence team at Yongsan Police Station who was accused of deleting a report that warned of a crowd surge in Itaewon and two officials in charge of the situation room at Yongsan Police Station and Seoul Metropolitan Police at the time of the incident, respectively, following the dismissal of former Yongsan Police Chief Lee Im-jae and Senior Superintendent Ryu Mi-jin.
While the special investigation team set up by the National Police Agency to look into the Itaewon tragedy has booked Choi Seong-beom, chief of the Yongsan Fire Station, for insufficient response to the incident, the team has also added another official from the Yongsan Fire Department as a suspect.
The person will be accused of belatedly issuing a second-stage response order on the day of the incident. The team is looking into whether each stage response order was issued accordingly.
Meanwhile, Yongsan-gu District Chief Park Hee-young has changed her stance on her whereabouts on the day of the incident.
She had previously explained that she got out of her car at Quy Nhon Street in Itaewon, some 130 meters from the scene of the incident, and inspected the area twice on Oct. 29 — once before returning home at around 8:20 p.m. and again at about an hour later — to check on the crowds in the Itaewon area.
However, Park later changed her story and claims to have exited her car at Antique Furniture Street, which is further from the scene of the disaster, after closed-circuit TV footage showed Park did not leave again after returning home at around 8:20 p.m. until she was notified of the incident at around 10:50 p.m.