Police officer investigated over Seoul Halloween stampede that killed 156 people is found dead


A South Korean police officer who was being investigated in connection with the Halloween crowd crush that killed more than 150 people in Seoul was found dead Friday, police said. The 55-year-old, identified only by his surname Jeong, was found dead at his home in Seoul, an official at the National Police Agency told AFP.

Jeong, an intelligence officer, had been working for the police station that oversaw the district of Itaewon, an entertainment area in the South Korean capital where the crush took place.

His office — the Yongsan Police Station — is one of the targets of a major investigation into the disaster, including botched crowd control efforts.

Investigators had previously raided the police station.

Transcripts of emergency calls, released earlier this month by the police, showed their hotline had received 11 reports of dangerous crowding nearly four hours before disaster struck, but apparently failed to take action.

Seoul Stampede Leaves Over 150 Dead at Halloween Festivities
Police officers stand guard behind a cordons in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 156 people that died in the crush were mainly young women, including a handful of teenagers and more than two dozen foreigners.

At least 100,000 people had flocked to the area to celebrate the first post-pandemic Halloween, but neither local authorities nor police had planned measures for a crowd that large.

A handful of top officials including the police chief, Seoul mayor and the interior minister issued public apologies last week, admitting they had failed to prevent the fatal disaster.

Jeong had been accused of ordering the destruction of an intelligence report, which had warned of a potential accident over Halloween in Itaewon, among other infractions, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Thousands of people gathered in Seoul at a candlelight vigil over the weekend to mourn the victims, with public anger growing over the government’s handling of the tragedy.

Officials said 26 of the dead were foreign nationals, including five Iranians, four Chinese, four Russians, two Japanese citizens and two Americans — University of Kentucky student Anne Gieske and Kennesaw State University student Steven Blesi.

Also among the victims was  24-year-old Korean actor and singer Lee Jihan, his agency 935 Entertainment confirmed in a statement.

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