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Enjoying Halloween in Itaewon sparks debate online

Controversy has arisen over whether visiting Seoul's popular nightlife district Itaewon to celebrate Halloween this year is acceptable, as the one-year anniversary of the crowd crush that took the lives of 159 mostly young people approaches.

On Sunday, an online community post posed the question: "Is going to Itaewon this Halloween a thoughtless act?" The post presented two options -- "It's thoughtless" and "No problem at all" -- soon sparking fervent discussion with hundreds of comments.

While there were several reactions of concern over enjoying Halloween in Itaewon, the general consensus leaned toward the notion that visiting Itaewon for this year's holiday would be acceptable. However, many emphasized the importance of commemorating the Itaewon tragedy and being cautious of each other's safety, rather than solely indulging in Halloween festivities.

On the opposing side, some expressed that they would not go to Itaewon for Halloween, suggesting alternative venues and locales for revelers. The most-liked comment about going to Itaewon to enjoy Halloween was: "Do you really have to?"

Meanwhile, some argued that there is no problem with visiting Itaewon, as local businesses rely on the Halloween festivities for their livelihood. Others believed that avoiding Itaewon might have a negative impact on the local economy and suggested a balance between enjoying and commemorating in the area. As an area known for foreign restaurants and bars, Itaewon has long been the center of Halloween celebrations in Korea.

Many also stressed the need for enhanced safety measures to prevent repeat occurrences of such incidents and to create a harmonious atmosphere between commemoration and celebration.

Late in the evening of Oct. 29, 2022, throngs of people became concentrated in a small alleyway leading to the main street, eventually forming a crowd crush that resulted in 159 deaths and 196 injuries. Audits and investigations of the tragedy have since revealed failures at many levels, from prevention to the emergency response.

This year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has prepared various safety measures to prevent similar incidents, including an overcrowding monitoring system that uses surveillance cameras to automatically measure the number of people in an area and analyze crowd density.

Additionally, the city government has established disaster safety monitoring centers in each district that will operate at all times. By the end of this year, the city plans to install 909 crowd-detection surveillance cameras at 71 locations throughout Seoul that could be susceptible to overcrowding.

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