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Religious organizations grieve and offer condolences after Halloween tragedy

Monks from the Jogye Order pray for the victims of the crowd surge in Itaewon on Monday. (Yonhap)
Monks from the Jogye Order pray for the victims of the crowd surge in Itaewon on Monday. (Yonhap)

Religious communities in the country expressed sadness and condolences over the tragic crowd surge that occurred in Seoul’s Itaewon district on Saturday night.

On Monday, religious leaders visited the memorial space to pay respect to the victims of the stampede that took 154 lives.

Ten monks from the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism visited the memorial space near an exit of Itaewon Subway Station and chanted a Buddhist prayer.

Peter Chung Soon-taick, the archbishop of Seoul, led a group of bishops to visit a joint memorial altar at the Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall in Jung-gu, on the same day.

Peter Chung Soon-taick (second right) visits a joint memorial altar at the Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall in Jung-gu on Monday. (Yonhap)
Peter Chung Soon-taick (second right) visits a joint memorial altar at the Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall in Jung-gu on Monday. (Yonhap)

Religious groups also offered messages of comfort and called out authorities in statements.

The United Christian Churches of Korea, one of the biggest associations of Protestant churches, said in a statement that "we express our deepest condolences to the victims and their families in an unexpected accident in Itaewon on Saturday night. We pray for those injured will recover as soon as possible."

“We have decided to join the national mourning period and temporarily postpone the ‘Korea Parade,’ which was scheduled to be held at Gwanghwamun and Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall on Saturday,” they said.

The parade is cohosted by The United Christian Churches of Korea and CTS, a local channel for the gospel.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea also delivered a statement on Sunday.

“We must break the cycle of irresponsibility that has become a practice in our society. … Relevant authorities should thoroughly examine the causes of this tragedy and make sure oblivion and irresponsibility are not repeated,” the statement said.

In a separate message, Chung, the archbishop of Seoul sent his condolences.

“I express my sincere condolences to all the victims and pray that the Lord’s grace and comfort are with those who are suffering from the sudden loss of loved ones and family members,” he said. “I also pray for those who are working on the rescue operation at the scene.”

Similarly, the Jogye Order, Korea’s biggest Buddhist sect, also issued a condolence letter and said, “Another heartbreaking accident has occurred in our society. The authorities should thoroughly examine the causes of this catastrophe so that there are no more sacrifices of young people.”

The Association of Korean Buddhist Orders, founded in 1967, also expressed its condolences to the victims and the families of the deceased.

“The Buddhist communities grieve this tragedy that caused massive casualties. The government should closely investigate the causes and come up with safety measures to prevent such tragedy from reoccurring again,” the statement said.

The association added that “reckless videos and comments are pain and suffering for the bereaved family.”

“This tragedy in the heart of Seoul was an accident that should never have happened. We are devastated that most of the victims are young who wanted to simply enjoy a festival,” said the Korean Council of Religious Leaders on Monday.

The organization is a consultative body of seven religious orders in the country including Buddhism, Won Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Cheondoism, Confucianism and the Association of Korea National Religions.



By Hwang Dong-hee (hwangdh@heraldcorp.com)
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