S.Korea's Halloween trauma spreads across society

STORY: Kim Bum-jin says he can't sleep.

For days, all he can think about at night is the Halloween crush. The memories of the disaster flooding back to him. He gets panic attacks at the sound of sirens.

The form he's filling out says "Disaster Mental Health Service." This is a mobile clinic with free counseling sent by South Korea's government to the disaster area in Seoul, where over 150 people died just days ago.

Kim was there when it happened. But with so many people both directly and indirectly affected, the trauma has become pervasive -- reaching wide across its culture.

That's according to Jun Jin-yong, a professor of psychiatry at South Korea's Ulsan University Hospital:

"The whole of society can become depressed. In such a situation, people who have experienced the situation directly or indirectly could be traumatized and they can drown in it. They can become socially lethargic and depressed.

"When you see reactions to disasters, there are inevitable reactions trying to find some scapegoats and blaming them. For example, when we had COVID-19 cases for the first time in South Korea, there were a lot of blaming reactions like, 'Why did you go there? Why did you spread it to others?'"

Back at the mobile clinic, Kim says he feels like he doesn't deserve to even eat, because he couldn't save anyone from the uncontrolled crowd surge. So many young people gone, it's "absurd," he says.

"Everyone was there to enjoy a festival. No one knew the accident would happen. People should know about this accident, so that this never happens again. I don't understand how people can cast blame."

Professor Jun says the hardest part, for some, is accepting that nobody was at fault simply for being there.