South Korea police chief admits response 'inadequate'

STORY: As South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol attended memorials on Tuesday for the 150-plus people who died in the weekend Halloween party crush, authorities moved to calm public outrage over the disaster.

The country’s police chief has admitted crowd control was ‘inadequate’ on Saturday night.

That’s when the deadly crush took place, after tens of thousands of mostly young revellers packed into the narrow alleys in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon, for the first mask-free Halloween festivities in three years.

In a televised news briefing, Korean National Police Commissioner General, Yoon Hee-keun promised a thorough probe into the police response.

Police dispatched just 137 officers to the area despite estimating as many as 100,000 people would gather that night.

“We will conduct intensive investigations quickly and seriously without exception. We will make it especially clear whether police responded correctly to the emergency calls.”

This comes after South Korea’s top security officer, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, angered the public by saying that deploying more police would not have prevented the disaster.

On Tuesday, Yoon told citizens he felt a heavy sense of responsibility in the tragedy.

“Through this incident, I feel deeply responsible for public safety and we will do our best to make sure such a tragedy as this does not occur again.”

At the Yongsan multiplex sports centre, briefly used as a morgue in the early hours after the crush, a lost and found space was set up on Tuesday.

Some 800 items of clothing and belongings, left by victims and survivors, are laid out for visitors to sift through.

As those who lost loved ones await answers from authorities, these material items carrying the memory of the tragedy sit there waiting to be reclaimed.