Foreign media pointed out that Korean authorities were to blame in the Itaewon disaster.
CNN “Korean authorities would have anticipated high numbers before Saturday night”
Juliette Kayyem, a disaster management expert and national security analyst, told CNN, “Korean authorities would have anticipated high numbers before Saturday night. There is a responsibility on the part of the authorities to be monitoring crowd volume in real time, so they can sense the need to get people out.”
The Washington Post (WP) pointed out, “Videos from the scene suggest that the tight streets and alleyways that lent the neighborhood its charm hadn’t been able to cope with the scale of the revelers that descended upon it. However, Yongsan district’s safety countermeasures for the expected celebrations were only coronavirus prevention, street cleanliness, restaurant safety inspections and crackdowns on potential use of drugs.” After reviewing videos, Steve Allen, founder of the British event safety consulting group Crowd Safety, said, “There is no crowd management in place whatsoever.”
Asahi “The Korean police did not obtain information in advance that the crowds could suddenly change”
Japanese media pointed out that the Korean police were to blame. In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Toshiro Yonemura, a former superintendent general who was in charge of security details for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, said, “People trapped in such crowds can do nothing once it starts moving. You can take preparations by identifying narrow spaces (to later avoid) and collecting information on potential factors that can make crowds move. I think the South Korean police did not obtain information in advance that the crowds could suddenly change.”
The Yomiuri Shimbun also criticized, “Many partygoers were excited to attend Halloween events following South Korea’s lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, but local authorities and police may not have been fully prepared.”
The New York Times (NYT) reported, “The tragedy – one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters – and questions about the authorities’ responsibility to manage the crowd, has marred the image of South Korea, a thriving technology and pop-culture powerhouse that is chronically prone to man-made disasters. Unlike political and labor rallies, which by law must be reported to the authorities in advance, the young people who descend on Itaewon every Halloween gather freely in large numbers, without the restrictions or permits required when hosting large, organized events. Officials in Seoul said they were caught off guard by the unorganized and spontaneous crowds on Saturday night.”