|Members of the bereaved families who lost loved ones in last year's Itaewon crowd disaster arrange a memorial altar set up the day before in front of Seoul City Hall, Sunday. The city government, which had not approved the installation of the altar, said it will remove the altar on Monday unless it is taken down voluntarily. Yonhap|
Deadly crowd crush marks 100th day on Sunday
By Ko Dong-hwan
Politicians, religious leaders, survivors of the Itaewon crowd tragedy and bereaved family members who lost loved ones in the disaster last October gathered at the National Assembly on Sunday to commemorate the 100-day anniversary of the deadly accident.
In a speech to mark the anniversary, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo pledged that lawmakers would work together to prevent future such tragedies.
"I will do my utmost to prevent a tragic incident like the crowd disaster from happening again," he said. "The National Assembly should not let any incidents like this happen again."
Sunday marked the 100th day since the Itaewon crowd disaster that claimed at least 158 lives.
Ten politicians from the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and 60 from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) joined the memorial service on Sunday afternoon. Present were the leaders from both parties, including PPP interim leader Rep. Chung Jin-suk and floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young, as well as DPK President Rep. Lee Jae-myung and floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun. Representatives of the minor Justice Party and Basic Income Party were also there.
Also present were the bereaved family members, including their official group's leader Lee Jong-chul. Religious representatives from the country's Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic and Won Buddhist circles were also there to offer eulogies.
The party leaders took the stage to urge their fellow politicians in front of the bereaved families to make sure the nation never sees another such tragic event.
"It's regretful that President Yoon Suk Yeol didn't come here today to meet the bereaved families in person," DPK Rep. Lee said at the podium. "The world turned black to the bereaved families but nothing changed at all for the president, the central government and the ruling party. It's up to us the politicians to find out what this country did ― or didn't do ― that day."
|From left in front row, Lee Jong-chul, representative of the civic group of bereaved families of Itaewon crowd disaster, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, Democratic Party of Korea chairman Rep. Lee Jae-myung, People Power Party interim leader Rep. Chung Jin-suk and Justice Party leader Lee Jung-mi pray for the victims during a memorial service to mark the 100th day since the tragedy, at the National Assembly, Sunday. Yonhap|
The memorial service was held a day after the bereaved families on Saturday clashed with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, as the city authority ordered the families to take down a memorial altar they set up "abruptly" in front of City Hall that day without notifying the city government.
Officials from the city government visited the altar on Saturday night and delivered a written notification urging them to remove the altar by Monday at 1 p.m. In a prior warning sent to the group, the authority said it would forcibly take it down unless the tent is voluntarily removed before the deadline.
The civic group rebuked the officials at the scene, saying they would not take it down and would protect the altar "24 hours." They also demanded Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon step down.
The altar had been set up as part of the group's march from another memorial site near Noksapyeong Station to Gwanghwamun Plaza. The march was held one day ahead of the 100-day anniversary of the tragedy. The altar at Seoul Plaza drew hundreds of visitors lining up to pay tribute to the victims.
|Bereaved families who lost loved ones in last year's Itaewon tragedy set up an altar in front of Seoul City Hall, Saturday. The crowd arrived at City Hall after marching north from Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan District toward Gwanghwamun Square. Newsis|
The city government said the altar erected in the middle of a public square without permission cannot be allowed. "It's regretful that a new altar has been set up abruptly without the city authority's approval," the city government said Saturday. "While repeatedly expressing our condolence, we urge them to continue using the space near Noksapyeong Station for the altar."
Civic group leader Lee Jong-chul threatened during Sunday's memorial service to set himself on fire if the city government tries to take down the altar.
"You will see a second tragedy tomorrow if you take that altar away from us," he said.
The civic group submitted a request previously to the city government late last month for permission to hold a public memorial gathering at Gwanghwamun Square to commemorate the 100-day anniversary. The city declined the request, saying the venue was already booked on that date for other purposes.
Months after the tragedy last October, the organization of the bereaved families are still demanding answers from the country's central government and special investigations by police and politicians, as they believe their questions regarding what exactly led to their loved ones' deaths haven't been fully answered.