As Korea enters a period of national mourning for the tragic accident in Itaewon over the weekend, some online communities are seeing derogatory remarks or condemnation towards the victims. Some people complain that they do not see any reason to mourn for those who lost their lives while entertaining themselves. Provocative videos of the accident are circulated, and there are rumors of false information about the cause. Such behavior is hate speech that is out of line, which can be held legally and ethically accountable for spreading false information.
Those who have passed away or suffered injury from the crush accident are victims of the disaster; they are not responsible for it. Students who have finished mid-terms, engaged couples, and young people celebrating their friends’ birthdays lost their lives due to an unfortunate accident. A young father held odd jobs struggling to put food on the table for his family. The Sri Lankan young man came to Korea with his pregnant wife of three months back home. Bereaved families of the victims say that their pain is like “being stabbed to death several times with a knife” and “deep sadness like the world is falling apart.” If people empathized with such emotions, they would not post comments of ridicule, blaming the victims.
Some make up rumors conspiring that drugs or gas leaks were the cause of the accident. The police and fire departments investigating the accident said no connection had been confirmed with such rumors. Spreading groundless rumors would not help manage the accident and might be subject to legal accountability. There is still unfiltered video footage of the accident scene being circulated online. It is inhumane to damage the dignity of victims and add to their wounds.
Citizens lined up to pay tribute at joint memorial altars in front of the Seoul City Hall, Noksapyeong Station plaza, and the accident scene. Couples with their children and foreign tourists from various countries laid flowers and mourned the death of the victims. The mourning is shared worldwide online as people join in praying for Itaewon. We should not forget that solidarity and sympathy with our community will drive efforts to build a safer and more robust society.