Seoul Police Chief Faces Professional Negligence Charges in 2022 Halloween Crush

The Chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), Kim Kwang-ho, has been charged with professional negligence resulting in injury or death in the tragic 2022 Halloween crush, as announced by the Seoul’s Western District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday.

On October 29, 2022, during post-pandemic holiday celebrations in the country’s Itaewon nightlife district, a crowd crush killed more than 150 party-goers in central Seoul. Tens of thousands, primarily in their 20s and 30s, had gathered for Halloween festivities when a surge of people flooded a narrow, sloping alleyway between bars and clubs, resulting in the deaths of over 150 individuals.

The prosecution’s statement indicates that, as the chief of the SMPA, Kim failed to take necessary measures, such as deploying an adequate police presence and ensuring proper command and supervision on the day of the incident, despite foreseeing potential dangers arising from overcrowding in the nightlife area.

Kim Kwang-ho is the highest-ranking police official to face trial in connection with the Halloween crush but has been charged without detention. In January of the previous year, Kim, along with 22 other officials from the police, rescue, and district offices, were referred to the prosecution by a special police investigation team due to their alleged involvement in the government’s mishandling of the tragic event. While the heads of the police station in Seoul’s Yongsan district, encompassing Itaewon, and the Yongsan Ward office had previously faced charges, Kim’s situation remained undecided for over a year.