It has been a month since the deadly Halloween crush on Oct. 29. The lack of proper crowd management, not an attack from outside, killed 158 people and injured 196. At the scene of the tragedy was a makeshift memorial site where the bereaved families and citizens flowed in and out to pay tribute to the victims.
However, a month was not enough to lift a weight off our shoulders, not only because of the deadliness of the disaster. More and more people are finding themselves helpless, watching the government struggle to handle the tragedy’s aftermath, if not prevent it. The police’s special investigation unit allegedly mobilized more than 500 officers. Still, the reasons why the signals hinting at the disaster went unheeded and why the golden hour to save lives was lost are unknown. The delay in the police investigation inevitably led to a deferment of the government’s follow-up steps. The government must remember that figuring out the direct cause of the incident and punishing the person in charge through reliable investigation is the key to disaster recovery.
However, it is facing ever-growing public disappointment and trust for just waiting for the probe results without taking any responsibility for the casualties in Itaewon, which had occurred due to its failure to safeguard its people. Minister Lee Sang-min of Public Administration and Security is rejecting calls for his resignation, saying that handling the aftermath is his top priority. Park Hee-young, head of the Yongsan District Office, shrank her responsibilities, even lying about what she did before and after the disaster. Their poor response led to the bereaved families' continued request for the government’s ‘sincere’ apology despite President Yoon Suk-yeol’s repeated apologies. The government must look back on its behaviors that only deepened the grief of the families and hampered the investigation when what the public wants to see is public officials taking political and moral responsibility for the tragedy.
After reaching an agreement on carrying out a parliamentary investigation into the Itaewon crowd crush, the ruling and opposition parties ended up in a power struggle to take the lead in deciding whether to make Minister Lee step down. Eight years ago, the National Assembly investigated administrative affairs on the April 16 ferry disaster to no avail due to a heated political fray. This may be why the same kind of disasters repeatedly occur. The parliamentary probe of the government is different from an investigation in general, which ends with punishing the people in charge. Going beyond simply lifting the veil of what happened on the day to ensure that everyone has the same memory of the incident, it must trace back the entire process of rescuing to find out why the accident could not be prevented and more lives could not be saved, and come up with measures to prevent a recurrence of the accident.