Seoul police chief indicted over deadly Itaewon crowd crush

January 19, 2024

Prosecutors indicted the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) on Friday over the bungled response to the deadly 2022 crowd crush in the district of Itaewon.

The indictment of SMPA chief Kim Kwang-ho came a year and three months after the crowd crush on Oct. 29, 2022, which killed 159 people on a Halloween weekend in the entertainment neighborhood of Itaewon, most of them in their 20s.

In January last year, a special police investigation team referred Kim and 22 other police, rescue and district office officials to the prosecution on charges related to the government’s botched response to the tragedy.

The Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office has since indicted the chief of the Yongsan Police Station, the head of the Yongsan Ward office and other officials but had remained undecided whether to indict the SMPA chief for more than a year.

On Friday, the prosecution office raised charges of professional negligence resulting in deaths as it indicted the Seoul police chief without physical detention for allegedly failing his professional duties to send police forces to prepare against the apparent safety risk involving the large Halloween crowd on the night of the disaster.

Kim is the highest-ranking police official charged in connection with the crowd crush. The police are expected to follow up Kim’s indictment possibly with a decision to remove him from his current position.

The prosecution, meanwhile, decided not to indict former Yongsan Fire Station chief Choi Seong-beom, clearing him of suspicions of professional negligence connected to the crowd crush.

Kim Kwang-ho, chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (Yonhap)
Kim Kwang-ho, chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (Yonhap)