Crime & Justice

Relatives of Itaewon crush victims slam gov’t over probe failures

Seoul, Dec 21 (EFE).- Families of victims of the Itaewon crush that left over 150 dead during Seoul Halloween celebrations urged the authorities on Wednesday to broaden the scope of investigations to find those who were responsible for the tragedy.

“Those who are truly responsible (for citizen security) have never met with the families of the victims and even the president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has only asked for forgiveness in religious acts,” Lee Jeong-min, the vice president of an organization of victims’ families and the father of one of the 158 people who died, told reporters.

Talking on behalf of other victims’ relatives, Lee slammed the interior ministry for refusing to provide relatives with the details of other families, alleging it was due to data protection laws, meaning those affected by the tragedy were left to forge a network on their own without any state assistance.

Lee urged those involved in the probe to broaden their investigation to include the prosecutor’s office, and said on behalf of the victims’ family network that, so far, investigators were “trying to investigate specific culprits but not the ones who are truly responsible.”

“We don’t think the police should conduct the probe because the interior minister (Lee Sang-min) should be one of those under investigation,” he added.

A special team from the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) said on Wednesday that it had requested another arrest warrant for former Yongsan police chief Lee Im-jae, who is accused of professional negligence resulting in death and fabricating official documents, according to Yonhap news agency.

The Seoul Western District Court dismissed the KNPA’s team’s initial request for a warrant two weeks ago.

The former chief of police allegedly arrived at the scene of the tragedy 50 minutes late and investigators have called into question the way he handled the emergency.

Despite some, albeit slow, progress with the investigation, relatives remain dissatisfied and have accused the authorities of dragging their feet.

The recently approved parliamentary investigation “arrives too late and without the possibility of truly being carried out on the ground,” the families said.

Lee Hyo-sook, the mother of Jung Joo-hee (a 30-year-old restaurateur who died in the crush), called for a more rigorous investigation and new security laws — something the government has pledged to do this month.

“I can’t sleep at night and I can’t accept the pain you must have felt before you died,” Lee Hyo-sook sobbed.

The organization, which brings together relatives of 103 of the victims, has urged the government to comply with six requirements, including a sincere apology from the authorities, maintaining stable communication with the families, and guaranteeing the memory of the victims.

On October 29, hundreds of people gathered in a narrow Itaewon alley that connects its main avenue with a pedestrian street full of bars causing a crowd crush that left 158 ​​dead, mostly women aged 20 to 30 and 30 seriously injured. EFE


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