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‘Stand with us’: One month after Itaewon disaster, bereaved families seek solidarity

Nov. 29, 2022 - 13:28 By Kim Arin
The families of Itaewon disaster victims speak during a press conference on Nov. 22. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)

The families of victims who died in the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood a month ago asked for solidarity from the community as they search for accountability from the government.

In a statement late Monday, the families thanked supporters and offered consolation to survivors, marking one month since the disaster that killed 158 people and left dozens with severe injuries.

“Because the government did not take measures to allow the bereaved families to communicate together, we had to grieve in isolation. We had to take it upon ourselves to find one another and gather,” they said.

“The government has yet to make a proper apology, and hasn’t taken any measures.”

While President Yoon Suk-yeol has apologized publicly several times, with the first ones dating Nov. 4, 5 and 7, families have asked for him to apologize sincerely.

“Since day one, the government has dodged responsibility and made excuses, hurting the families immeasurably,” they said.

“This is a disaster that could have been prevented based on the facts unveiled so far. This is a man-made disaster. And yet the government is failing to claim responsibility and avoiding answers.”

The families said that they weren’t told exactly when and how their loved ones were killed, and what kind of measures the government intended to take from now on. The compensation, which the government has promised, shouldn’t precede investigations, they argued.

“No amount of money is going to bring 158 victims back. That’s not what we want,” they said.

“We want to stop another disaster like this from happening again. That’s why we are desperate to find justice in these wrongful deaths,” they said, adding that they planned on forming an association of families in order to work together.

“We hope that you will stand with us.”

This joint statement, signed by families of 65 victims who lost their lives during or in the aftermath of the crush, was released by Lawyers for a Democratic Society or Minbyun. The progressive lawyers’ group is assisting the families with legal aid and other services.