Seoul Amps Up Security Measures For Halloween Celebrations Following Last Year’s Tragedy


In anticipation of the Halloween weekend, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) has announced a comprehensive plan to deploy over 1,000 personnel for crowd control across 16 areas of the capital. This comes a year after the tragic incident in Itaewon, where a crowd crush led to the death of 159 people.

South Korean emergency service workers in the Itaewon alley where a crush occurred. | Getty Images

The decision to amplify security measures was made in light of the anticipated surge in the number of revelers expected to flock to various parts of the city. In the wake of last year’s tragic events, the SMPA has reportedly been proactive in its approach to crowd management.

Concerns about a “balloon effect” have emerged, where in the aftermath of last year’s tragedy in Itaewon, people might opt for alternative locations to celebrate Halloween. Such a shift in crowd movement might lead to unforeseen challenges in areas that haven’t traditionally seen huge Halloween gatherings.

| The Korea Herald

While traditionally, Itaewon and the neighboring Yongsan District have been popular spots for Halloween celebrations, authorities believe this year will see a shift in crowd dynamics, with people preferring the Mapo and Gangnam districts.

Halloween in Itaewon, 2015. | KoreanWonders

The SMPA has outlined several strategies to ensure smooth crowd movement, especially in narrower alleys. Among these strategies are the use of flashing lights and public announcements designed to guide the flow of pedestrians and maintain order.

In more concrete numbers, the SMPA plans to station a whopping 1,260 officers across the city on the weekend, particularly on Friday and Saturday when the most significant influx of celebrants is expected. Furthermore, special police squads will be patrolling three major subway stations to ensure safety and security.

Photo of South Korean officers for illustrative purposes. | UPI

The designated areas for enhanced security include prominent spots like Ikseon-dong and Myeong-dong in downtown Seoul, commercial vicinities around Yonsei, Hongik, and Konkuk universities, Seongdong District’s trendy coffee shop street, food lanes in Mullae-dong, and other notable locations such as Apgujeong Rodeo Street, Sharosugil, and subway stations in Nonhyeon, Sillim, Wangsimni, and Itaewon.

A police officer stands guard at the exit of a subway station as people gather to pay their respects following a crowd crush that happened. | Reuters

A striking comparison can be made to the previous year when only 83 officers were assigned to manage a crowd of over 100,000 in Itaewon. There were earlier claims of 137 officers being dispatched, but investigations revealed that a significant chunk of this force was allocated to other duties.

Seoul police officer expresses sorrow over Itaewon crush, saying, “I don’t feel I did my best.” | BBC

Hongik University and its surrounding areas are predicted to see the largest congregation among the designated high-risk zones. In response, the Seoul Mapo Police Station has planned additional measures starting from Friday. Over a span of five days, 1,600 personnel, including four police squads and 200 officers, will be stationed in the area.

Hongik (also know as Hongdae) University Street | This is Korea Tours

The district police will also collaborate closely with fire authorities, the district office, and subway operators, establishing an emergency communication network. Additionally, an AI-driven crowd analysis system will be in place to monitor and manage crowd flow effectively.

 Concerns about a “balloon effect” have emerged. 

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