Prosecutors in Seoul, South Korea have accused the city’s police chief of professional negligence in connection with the tragic Halloween stampede of 2022 that claimed the lives of almost 160 individuals.
According to a statement from the western district prosecutors’ office in Seoul, Kim Kwang-ho, the leader of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), has been accused of professional misconduct that led to harm or loss of life.
According to the statement, the head of the SMPA is accused of not taking appropriate action on the day of the crush, such as deploying enough police and providing proper command and supervision. The statement also claims that he was aware of the potential dangers of overcrowding in the nightlife area.
Kim, the most senior police officer to be tried for the incident, was charged without being held in custody.
On 29 October 2022, tens of thousands of people – mostly in their 20s and 30s – had been out to enjoy post-pandemic holiday celebrations in Seoul’s Itaewon nightlife district. But the night turned deadly when people poured into a narrow, sloping alleyway between bars and clubs, leading to a crowd crush.
In January of the previous year, a group of 23 individuals including Kim, police officers, rescue workers, and district officials were recommended to be prosecuted by a special investigative team for their suspected participation in mishandling the government’s response to the crush incident.
The leaders of the police station and Yongsan Ward office in Seoul’s Yongsan district, which encompasses Itaewon, were charged by prosecutors. However, they were unsure about charging Kim for over a year.
According to a statement released on Friday, Kim, along with the chief of Yongsan police station and the head of Yongsan Ward office, is being accused of causing the deaths of 158 people and injuring 312 others due to their professional negligence.
The families of the victims expressed disappointment with the extended decision-making process of the prosecution before charging Kim.
The families released a statement demanding that Chief Kim resign and be brought to trial. They also urged President Yoon Suk-yeol to fire Kim right away.