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With flowers and food, citizens share warmth while mourning

Nov. 2, 2022 - 14:28 By Choi Jae-hee

Kim Seo-joon gives out free flowers to mourners in front of Exit 1 of Itaewon Station inYongsan-gu, Seoul, Wednesday. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

Mourners form a long line near Itaewon Station Exit 1, just a few meters from where over 150 people died on a horrific Halloween night out on Saturday.

One by one they get a white chrysanthemum from a makeshift table, which they lay down at a memorial altar for the victims set up nearby.

The flowers have been brought by Kim Seo-joon, a 31-year-old man who runs a flower shop in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul. He brought more than 300 white chrysanthemums to Itaewon on Wednesday morning to give away for free.

“I have received numerous calls from customers looking for white chrysanthemums since Sunday. Many people’s voices were shaking with sorrow. I did not want to take money from them,” Kim told The Korea Herald.

He also lost a friend in the incident, he added, as more than 30 people were waiting in line for the flowers. Some people have volunteered to help him with rolling the flowers with tissue paper.

“No matter how much it costs, I will continue the donation for the time being. This is the best I can do to express my condolences to the victims and their families,” he said.

While more than 100 restaurants and cafes near the Itaewon area voluntarily went into temporary closures after the tragedy. One coffee shop has been brewing coffee, but not for sale.

Near Exit 2 of Itaewon Station, a cafe owner surnamed Oh has been brewing free coffee for police officers.

“On Saturday night after the incident took place, a number of customers came to buy coffee and other beverages for emergency workers who were carrying out rescue operations. I didn’t charge them. Since then, I’ve been providing free drinks for the officers from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m,” said the 42-year-old owner.

“I can’t force somebody to express condolences over the tragedy, but I think it is a time to be supportive of each other. I am just doing what I can do in my field of work.”

The voluntary food-sharing campaign by stores during the national mourning period has also taken place outside the capital city.

A 37-year-old bakery shop owner in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province surnamed Hwang has been giving out free cookies in an effort to console passersby and customers in shock and grief. He will offer all beverages and pastries on his menu for 1,000 won ($0.71) until the end of next week.