Seoul’s Chief of Police, Kim Kwang-ho, has been formally charged with professional negligence related to the Halloween crush that claimed nearly 160 lives in 2022. The Seoul Western District Prosecutor’s Office announced the charges in a statement released on Friday.

The Halloween crush occurred on 29 October 2022, in Seoul’s Itaewon district at around 10:20 p.m. The gathering of the people, primarily in their 20s and 30s, led to a deadly crowd crush in a narrow, sloping alleyway between bars and clubs. Two additional deaths occurred in the aftermath of the crush.

The majority of the victims were young adults, and 27 were foreign nationals. The incident is considered the deadliest disaster in the country since the MV Sewol sinking in 2014 and the most significant mass casualty incident in Seoul since the Sampoong Department Store collapse in 1995.

A special police team investigated in the wake of the disaster, concluding on 13 January 2023 that the failure of both the police and government to adequately prepare for the massive crowds, despite numerous ignored warnings, was the primary cause of the incident.

The charges against Kim Kwang-ho include professional negligence leading to injury or death. It is alleged that the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) failed to take necessary measures, such as deploying sufficient police forces and ensuring proper command and supervision during the incident. The statement released on Friday claims that Kim could foresee potential dangers arising from overcrowding in the nightlife area where the crush occurred.

Kim Kwang-ho, the highest-ranking police official involved in the Halloween crush tragedy, has been charged without detention. The incident resulted in the death of 158 individuals and injuries to 312 others, according to the prosecutor’s statement. The charges follow the referral of Kim and 22 other officials, including police, rescue, and district offices, to prosecutors in January of the previous year for their alleged involvement in mishandling the crush.

The heads of the police station in Seoul’s Yongsan district and the Yongsan Ward office were charged earlier. However, the decision to charge Kim took over a year. The families of the victims called for Kim to step down from his position immediately and face trial. In a statement, they urged President Yoon Suk-yeol to dismiss Kim without delay regarding the charges of professional negligence.