Report from the scene of the mass accident in Itaewon, Seoul, Korea

  • Disaster Reports

Disaster investigation report by Visiting Professor Yasuyuki Yama, Historical Disaster Analysis (Visiting Professors), Research Center for Disaster Reduction Systems, DPRI, Kyoto University.

Itaewon Station in Seoul, South Korea. On both walls of the entrance to the stairs leading to Exit 1, there are papers with messages written for the victims. The area around Exit 1 is also filled with messages, bouquets and potted flowers are offered, and covered with a plastic sheet (Photo 1).

Photo 1 Itaewon Station Exit 1

On the night of 29 October 2022, a mass accident occurred in Itaewon, which was due to Halloween celebrations. 158 people lost their lives. Most of them in their 20s and 30s, and more than 100 women among them,  and about 200 were injured. The author had the opportunity to visit the accident site about a month later.


Exit 1 directly leads to the alley which was the scene of the accident. It is hard to believe that so many people were killed in such a narrow alley (Photo 2).

The left side of the alley entrance is lined with shops, and the wall on the right side of the entrance is filled with papers with messages written on them. Some have been cut. Seen from the entrance on the other side of the alley, it slopes down quite steeply toward the main street.

Photo 2 Entrance of the Alley

The messages are written not only in Korean, but also in various other foreign languages, including English and Chinese. Many of the messages in foreign languages are accompanied by photographs, which may be the portraits of the victims. Itaewon is a district where many foreigners live, and the number of foreign victims has reached 26 people from 14 countries. The messages in Japanese included, “Please rest in peace,” and “I pray for the repose of the soul.” Since it was only one month after the accident, the scene was filled with a solemn atmosphere.


The author has long advocated the concept of “symbolic reconstruction.” Reconstruction cannot be achieved unless people feel that it is recovering. Needless to say, it must be implemented by setting up a solid security system to prevent accidents.

The Halloween 2022, for the first time in three years due to the corona virus, they removed the rules to wear masks outdoors and restricted business hours. It became an opportunity for young people to exhilarate with a sense of recovery from the corona wreck, and enjoy freedom from the long periods of self-restraint and oppression.

Festivals and events that had been voluntarily canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic have resumed in various places for the first time in three years, but the social significance of these events is likely to be quite different from the ones that are repeated every year. This time, in such a situation, a modern festival called Halloween, which is said to have no organizer, was held. There are two exceptional circumstances behind the accident.

Despite concerns about such dangers, it is gradually becoming clear that the security system of the police and the response of the government were inadequate. In the future, it will be necessary to pay close attention such events to prevent recurrence.