The tragedy in Itaewon claimed over 150 innocent lives, many of whom were in their 20s and just wanted to celebrate their first mask-free Halloween since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of their stories.
A family night out meets a tragic end
The pictures of a mother and daughter are placed side-by-side on the altar at a funeral parlor in southern Seoul. Eighty or so middle school students in uniform line up to pay their respects.
The daughter, a 15-year-old middle school student, is the youngest victim of Saturday’s tragedy in Itaewon. She passed away, along with her mother and aunt.
It was meant to be a girls’ night out for the teenager, her mother and her aunt to celebrate Halloween.
Family members and friends recounted how close the mother and daughter had been. Seoul’s education chief Cho Hee-yeon, paying respects to the victims on Sunday, said: “The family must have been very close for the child to celebrate Halloween with her aunt and mother. I couldn’t help but think about how such family harmony could lead to such a tragedy.”
The aunt’s funeral was being held at another funeral home located in Guro-gu, Seoul. The aunt was a local district office employee and a mother to an elementary student.
A girl who supported ill mother, siblings
An grief-stricken mother roamed around Seoul on Sunday, going from hospital to hospital looking for her second daughter who never came home. The mother only stopped when she saw her daughter’s name on the police’s list of the deceased.
The mother of four had been sick since the victim was in middle school. Her second daughter, who was in her twenties this year, had started working part time jobs since middle school to support her ill mother and two younger siblings.
“My daughter is so beautiful. She is in her youthful age. She still has a lot to do. She has to get married and…” The mother could not continue her words as she spoke to Yonhap News Agency, while looking at her daughter’s photo on her phone.
The last phone call
A father surnamed Choi, who lives in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, received a phone call at around 10:33 p.m. on Saturday from his daughter who had gone to Itaewon to celebrate Halloween.
According to reports from Donga Ilbo, he heard noises through the phone that sounded like people fighting. When he asked his daughter what was going on, the line cut off, the father recounted. He called his daughter back several more times, but she never picked up.
His daughter was among those who perished in the deadly crowd crush in a narrow alleyway in Itaewon. What sounded like a fight must have been screams and cries for help from those who were trapped, he later realized.
She had gone to Itaewon with a friend who survived. The friend apologized to the father for not being able to save her. “It’s not your fault,” Choi replied.