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(LEAD) Yoon vows to seek accountability from those responsible for Itaewon tragedy

All News 11:32 November 07, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details; RECASTS lead; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol apologized Monday over the deadly Itaewon crowd crush, calling for a sweeping overhaul of police accused of bungling the response and promising to punish those responsible.

Yoon made the remark during a meeting held to review crowd control and other safety regulations in the wake of the tragedy that killed 156 people on Oct. 29.

"In order to respond effectively to various dangers in our society, we must carry out a general institutional review of authority and responsibility in safety management, and of a rapid reporting system," he said, amid criticism that the police and local government authorities were neither informed nor present at the scene in a timely manner.

"We need major innovations in the way police prepare against risks and prevent accidents in order to protect the people's safety," he said. "I will make sure the truth is thoroughly determined regarding this tragedy and disclose the process to the public in a transparent manner that leaves not a trace of doubt."

Yoon did not mention how he will uncover the truth, but the police have been conducting an internal inspection and investigation into what went wrong in its handling of the disaster.

"In line with the results, I will strictly demand accountability from those responsible," he said.

Yoon also issued his first formal apology to the nation over the tragedy, though he previously made similar remarks during Buddhist and Christian memorial services.

"I dare not compare myself to the parents who lost their sons and daughters, but as the president who should protect the people's lives and safety, I grieve and my heart is heavy," he said. "I am apologetic and sorry to the bereaved families who are facing an indescribable tragedy and to the nation that is sharing in the pain and sadness."

Yoon renewed his call on the government to handle the aftermath of the tragedy in a responsible manner, and to improve existing anti-disaster and safety regulations to make the nation safer.

Monday's meeting brought together Cabinet members, including the prime minister, finance minister and interior minister, the police chief, civilian experts on disaster and safety issues, front-line police and firefighting officials, and the ruling People Power Party's chief policymaker.

Participants reviewed the current anti-disaster guidelines and necessary improvements, including those related to crowd control, the 112 and 119 emergency hotlines and emerging risks in a digitally connected society, according to the presidential office.

Some called for strengthening disciplinary action against belated reporting to superiors and absence from duty, increasing authorities' command over a scene, and establishing a science-based safety management system that relies on information technology, not personal experience and capabilities, it said.

President Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a government-civilian meeting on national safety regulations at the presidential office in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol presides over a government-civilian meeting on national safety regulations at the presidential office in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)


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