Seoul, Tokyo step up security ahead of Halloween

Police and local authorities in Seoul and Tokyo are stepping up safety measures ahead of Halloween. Last year, a crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon district left 159 people dead.

In Seoul, more than 1,000 police officers have been mobilized for crowd control this year at 16 popular areas.

Fences have been placed in the center of alleys to create one-way pedestrian traffic in both directions.

An AI system will analyze video from security cameras to notify authorities when crowds appear to be forming.

Fences placed the center of alleys create one-way pedestrian traffic in both directions.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Wednesday said his government is working to prevent another tragedy.

A lack of action to ensure safety

People have been visiting Itaewon to mourn the victims – mostly young – who lost their lives on October 29, 2022. They include two Japanese nationals as well as a South Korean man who later committed suicide after losing two friends that night.

A crowd crush on October 29, 2022, in Seoul's Itaewon district killed more than 150 people.

Messages reading "Rest in peace" have been posted on walls along the narrow alley.

A police report states the density of the crowd crammed into the sloping alley and surrounding area reached a point where people couldn't move more than an hour before the crush.

Experts believe a lack of plans to ensure safety on the day of the incident led to the tragedy. The families of the victims agree. They consider the crush to be a man-made tragedy and are demanding accountability.

The incident led to the arrest of the head of Yongsan Ward last December on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for allegedly failing to take appropriate steps in anticipation of Halloween crowds. Four senior police officials were also arrested.

Memorial ceremonies

Seoul held a memorial service on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the crush. Thousands of people gathered in front of city hall.

A memorial service was also held at a temple in the Hokkaido hometown of victim Tomikawa Mei.

The 26-year-old had been studying Korean in Seoul at the time.

Tomikawa Mei died after being trapped in the Itaewon crowd crush.

Around 20 people, including relatives and two Korean friends, attended the ceremony.

Her father, Tomikawa Ayumu, called for effective safety measures to be taken so the lives of the many victims would not have been lost in vain.

Tokyo's Shibuya shuns Halloween revelers

Tokyo's Halloween hotspot Shibuya Ward is also stepping up its safety measures.

Shibuya Mayor Hasebe Ken made an unusual announcement in early October, telling would-be revelers to stay away from the ward on Halloween. Hasebe stressed, "Shibuya is not going be a Halloween event venue this year. I want to make this message clear to the world."

Tokyo's Shibuya Ward Mayor Hasebe Ken on October 5 asks people not to hold Halloween festivities near Shibuya Station.

Drinking in the streets near Shibuya Station will be prohibited from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31 between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. The ward has asked convenience stores in the area to stop selling alcohol on Halloween.

The ward is also posting security guards. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department will deploy riot police and a public relations unit known as the DJ Police to deal with crowds.

Shibuya Ward officials covered up the iconic statue of Hachiko – a popular meeting place – and blocked off the area on Saturday to prevent Halloween partiers from gathering there.

For more: After Itaewon, experts offer advice on staying safe in crowds