After the Deadly Itaewon Crush: Celebratory Atmosphere of Nightlife in Hong Kong

The Itaewon area in Seoul, South Korea, gathered about 100,000 people on the evening of October 29. It was the first Halloween after the epidemic blockade was lifted for 2 years. A massive stampede and breathing difficulties occurred, resulting in a tragedy.

According to official information from Korea, the latest death toll has increased to 156 with 152 injured; the dead include 101 women and 55 men, including 26 foreigners. This has become the worst trampling accident in the history of the Republic of Korea since its founding.

Video about the incident at Itaewon. (Video: Reuters)

Itaewon is the most crowded place for foreigners in Seoul and is also the first place for young people to gather. Every Halloween, people walk around in various costumes and go to bars and nightclubs to have fun.

Itaewon is a narrow alley lined with bars and restaurants on a weekday night.
(Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash)

At around 10:20 pm on October 29, news of a stampede at Itaewon began to appear in online communities. After that, a group of police and firefighters rushed in and performed CPR on a large number of people who have fallen, but many of them were already in cardiopulmonary arrest; one after another, the bodies were lying on the street. In addition to the crowds of people in panic, shoes and clothing were scattered everywhere on the streets.

I felt like the ‘Halloween’ scenario was played out because a lot of people had blood on their clothes or had scary things on them, and there were dead people, right in the real world.

Defne Dincer, International Student in Korea

The Itaewon accident reminded Hong Kong people of another tragedy that occurred in Lan Kwai Fong on January 1, 1993. At that time, thousands of local and foreign party-goers trampled through a crowded bar and restaurant district in the heart of Hong Kong.

Some people sprayed snowflakes and alcohol, and others scrambled to avoid them, causing the scene to get out of hand and eventually resulting in a tragedy. (Photo: TVB News screenshot)

On the first day of 1993, shortly after the New Year’s Eve countdown, nearly 20,000 Hong Kong residents participated in a New Year’s Eve bash in Lan Kwai Fong. The midnight countdown was followed by a flood of people and tourists from bars and restaurants to greet the New Year in the streets, and emotions ran high. Some people sprayed aerosol ribbons and snowflakes, sprayed drinks, etc., making the road very slippery, and many people walked to avoid being sprayed. Some foreigners threw bottles and bricks and burned newspapers, and the scene began to get out of hand.

Medical personnel administered first aid to the injured man on the spot. (Photo: TVB News screenshot)

The same tragedy as the Itaewon tragedy, a 300-meter-long “D’Aguilar Street” with a ramp, caused a crowd to collapse like dominoes in a stampede that killed 21 people and injured 63 others, making it the worst tragedy in Hong Kong’s history.

Learning a lesson from the 1993 Lan Kwai Fong stampede, the Hong Kong government has stepped up its police presence at large events to prevent overcrowding. During large events, the Hong Kong police will step up crowd control and even hold signs to remind people to avoid gathering in narrow alleys. Since 1993, the MTR has been operating overnight during festive celebrations to speed up the dispersal of crowds.

Video of Halloween at Lan Kwai Fong this year. (Video: Christina Lai)

This year, Halloween is the first festival after the relaxation of the ban on gathering to 12 people in Hong Kong, but the tragedy in Itaewon, South Korea, has made Hong Kong people worried about celebrating Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong.

On October 28, the Hong Kong Police Force implemented crowd control and special traffic arrangements in the area of Lan Kwai Fong in Central, including the 1993 accident on D’Aguilar Street, in response to the Halloween celebration. The public is also reminded not to carry any imitation firearms, illegal weapons, offensive weapons, or illegal items.

Video of police explaining the crowd control regulation. (Video: Hong Kong Police Force)

Ms. Wong, who is well-dressed, described the atmosphere in Lan Kwai Fong on the eve of Halloween as uneventful, probably due to the stampede in Korea and the fact that she had to return to school and work the next day. It is because the crowd is not much, she came to drink as planned, if you see a crowd, may choose to change the venue.

The public celebrated Halloween by dressing up as different characters. (Photo: Tung Tung)

If Lan Kwai Fong is too crowded, I will leave immediately. I would be more alert to the Korean tragedy.


Many people dressed up as different characters in the streets to take pictures for souvenirs. (Photo: Christina LAI)

Donna, a student, came to Lan Kwai Fong with a group of friends to feel the atmosphere. She said she was a little worried after hearing about the Itaewon incident, but knew that a similar tragedy had occurred in Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong in 1993, and believed that the police had learned enough experience from the incident to deal with it.

The crowd control is pretty good, especially during Halloween but on regular days, it’s pretty non-existent, it’s not really But there’s always police somewhere in LKF dispersing drunk people and crowds.

Donna, student

When celebrating Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong, people will ask the police for directions to leave. (Photo: Hong Kong Police Force’s Facebook)
A large number of police officers are in the area of Lan Kwai Fong for pedestrian flow control. (Photo: Christina LAI)

Special effects makeup artist Tung Tung, who was invited by the bar owner to do Halloween makeup for customers at the Lan Kwai Fong bar from the 28th to the 31st, said, “After the tragedy of 1993, it’s true that the police have done a good job of dispersing the crowds, and every 15 minutes or so when they see a crowd gathering, police officers are coming in immediately. Therefore, I am not worried about the second tragedy of people trampling on people in Hong Kong. However, I think the atmosphere this year is lighter than before the epidemic, probably because of the Itaewon incident. Some of my friends did not attend the party today (October 31) because of this incident”.


Feature image by Tung Tung.

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