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(2nd LD) Yongsan Ward chief, senior police officer summoned over Itaewon crush probe

National 16:42 November 18, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 4 paras)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- Police brought in a Yongsan Ward chief for questioning on Friday as part of an investigation into the crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon neighborhood.

Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young, who administers the Itaewon district, appeared before a special investigation team building in western Seoul as a suspect.

Park has been booked on charges of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of at least 158 people, mostly those in 20s, on Oct. 29. She has also been banned from leaving the country.

Asked about her charges upon arrival at the building, Park simply said, "I will faithfully undergo investigation."

Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young enters a special investigation team building in western Seoul on Nov. 18, 2022, to face questioning over the crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon neighborhood. (Yonhap)

Yongsan Ward office chief Park Hee-young enters a special investigation team building in western Seoul on Nov. 18, 2022, to face questioning over the crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon neighborhood. (Yonhap)

The team is investigating whether Park had sufficient disaster prevention planning for the Halloween crowds in advance and whether she was faithful to her duties to promptly respond to the accident.

Also under scrutiny is whether the ward office's ordinance, adopted in April, allowing restaurants in its district to double as clubs had anything to do with the accident's high death toll.

Former senior emergency monitoring officer Ryu Mi-jin, who was in charge of police in Seoul at the time, also appeared for questioning later in the day.

Ryu, who was temporarily removed from her post, has also been booked on a dereliction-of-duty charge.

The special investigation team said it has assigned the case of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min to its corruption investigation unit for high-ranking government officials.

Unionized firefighters earlier filed a complaint against Lee for alleged negligence in connection with the accident.

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khj@yna.co.kr
(END)

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