Seoul's police chief has been charged with professional negligence for the deadly Halloween stampede that killed nearly 160 people in the center of the city in 2022, the South Korean capital's prosecutor's office said Friday.
Kim Kwang-ho, the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, was charged with professional negligence resulting in injury or death, the capital's Western District Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.
On the evening of Saturday, October 29, 2022, tens of thousands of people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, were out enjoying the post-pandemic celebrations in Itaewon, a cosmopolitan neighborhood in Seoul.
The evening turned tragic when a crowd of revelers found themselves in a sloping narrow passage between the alleyways of bars and nightclubs. More than 150 people were killed in the onslaught.
On the day of the disaster, Mr. Kim “failed to take necessary measures, such as: “For example, the deployment of sufficient police forces and ensuring proper management and supervision”, although he “could have foreseen the potential dangers” that would arise from the presence of too large a number of people, explains the press release from the public prosecutor's office.
Mr. Kim, the highest-ranking police officer to be tried over the tragedy, was charged without detention.
In January 2023, he and 22 other officers from the police, emergency services and district offices were referred to the public prosecutor's office as part of a special police investigation into their alleged role in the government's mishandling of this tragedy.
Prosecutors filed charges against the police chiefs of Yongsan District, which includes Itaewon District, and the district's city hall, but had not made a decision regarding Mr. Kim for more than a year.
The latter, “along with the Yongsan Police Chief and the Yongsan City Hall Director, who are currently on trial, caused the death of 158 people and the injury of 312 people due to professional negligence.”
The victims' families said they regretted the long delay in the decision to charge Kim Kwang-ho.
“Chief Kim must immediately resign from office and be brought to justice,” the families demanded in a statement.
“President Yoon Suk Yeol must fire Kim immediately.”