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AN YEAR AFTER THE ITAEWON TRAGEDY

By Memory Muthoni


October 29th marks the first anniversary since the Itaewon tragedy that claimed 159 lives and on this day families of the bereaved, civic groups and citizens held a memorial service and a march, demanding for a thorough investigation and a formal apology from the government. The event was hosted on a Sunday with most of them wearing purple jackets as a symbol of condolences for the victims of the crush. The march started from the site of the disaster near Itaewon station and proceeded to Seoul Plaza. According to the organizer's about 500 people attended the meeting with several citizens and passerbys taking a pause to pay tribute to the deceased. Before the march began, a prayer meeting was conducted by religious leaders representing four religions– Christianity, Buddhism,Won Buddhism and Catholicism.

The parade arrived at Seoul Plaza, and several politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties attended the main ceremony. The president did not attend the memorial service however attended a separate memorial service in Yeongnam Church where He expressed his sympathies to the victims. A day earlier, Itaewon was packed with halloween festivities ,however this time with a more muted atmosphere and heightened safety measures. Despite the reduced number of visitors compared to last year, shouts of excitement and laughter could be heard a mile away. Near exit No. 1 of Itaewon station, visitors read and write condolence messages on a memorial wall that had been put up to remember the victims.

This year local authorities such as the Yongsan-gu Office, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters put strict measures to ensure safety during the Halloweem festivities. Other than the dispatchment of police officers, firefighters and officials to the Itaewon area, surveillance cameras with an intelligent crowd detection system was installed at six different locations, as well as a 300 meter long barricade that divided the narrow itaewon alleys so as to guide pedestrians in and out without any commotion or accidents. With crowd control measures implemented heavily this year , many seem to be left with the same thoughts of whether last year would have been different if the same measures had been put in place back then. A year has passed but for many,not much has changed since the passing of their loved ones. Many are still battling with trauma and grief while anxiously waiting for the government to give them answers on what really transpired that night. As we are all about to bid 2023 goodbye hopefully the next year, the victims will finally have their answers. The pictures are from The Korean Herald website.

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