Seoul police HQ raided for evidence of negligence in Itaewon tragedy
Prosecutors raided the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, days after receiving the Itaewon crowd crush case from a special police investigation team.
The Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office announced Wednesday that their investigators were dispatched to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Jongno District, central Seoul, to collect evidence of professional negligence resulting in death on the night of Nov. 29, as the special police investigation team alleged.
The PR office of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the office of the agency’s chief, Commissioner Kim Kwang-ho, was also raided.
The raid came five days after a special police investigation team formally wrapped up its 73-day probe of the Itaewon crowd crush.
Last Friday, the team announced in a press conference that they recommended prosecution of 23 people including Commissioner Kim but weren’t holding the interior minister or commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency accountable for any charges.
While a few other police departments will continue investigating the fire authorities and other suspects for their roles in the Itaewon crowd surge, the special police investigation team said it was closing its probe and passing the baton to prosecutors.
Victims’ families slammed the special police investigation team for failing to press charges against Interior Minister Lee Sang-min and Yoon Hee-keun, commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency, calling its probe “irresponsible.”
On Tuesday, a separate parliamentary probe of the Itaewon tragedy concluded with liberal parties adopting a report that denounced Interior Minister Lee and the Yoon Suk Yeol administration for failing to take precautions the night of the tragedy.
Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) refused to back the report.
In a statement, Democratic Party (DP) Rep. Woo Sang-ho, head of the parliamentary investigation committee, said he was sorry that the committee failed to live up to the expectations of the victims’ relatives.
The DP, Justice Party and Basic Income Party, which are all liberal, on Wednesday announced plans to form an “independent investigation agency” to further dig into the Itaewon tragedy, vowing to punish those responsible.
Rep. Bak Hong-geun, floor leader of the DP, criticized the PPP for not backing the parliamentary investigation committee’s report, calling it an attempt to protect Interior Minister Lee.
The parties said they would try to establish a special parliamentary committee for disasters and safety, and through the committee, try to improve public systems for prevention and response to tragedies like the Itaewon crowd surge, which took 158 lives, including 26 foreigners.
Most of the victims were under the age of 30 celebrating Halloween. They were crushed in a narrow alley next to the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, central Seoul, as large crowds came from opposite directions.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]