Mourners visit a makeshift memorial near the site of a crowd crush tragedy in Seoul on Oct. 31. The incident left at least 158 dead during Halloween celebrations in the nightlife district of Itaewon. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 24 (UPI) -- South Korea's National Assembly on Thursday approved a plan to investigate the crowd surge incident amid Halloween celebrations in Seoul that left at least 158 people dead.
The approval begins a 45-day probe into the activities that led to the disaster in Seoul's Itaewon district on the night of Oct. 29, the Yonhap news agency reported. The investigation is expected to conclude on Jan. 7, 2023.
Lawmakers will investigate a number of government agencies including the state affairs monitoring team of the presidential office, the national crisis management center, the prime minister's office, as well as the interior and health ministries.
The investigation will also include South Korea's top prosecutor's office after the ruling People Power Party pulled out of the meeting at the last minute after demanding that the probe exclude the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, The Korea Herald reported.
The rival Democratic Party of Korea has alleged that prosecutors' focus on the country's war on drugs has distracted police from public safety matters.
"The ruling party is now saying that the prosecution's drug crackdown has been going on long before the Itaewon disaster, and they don't see the connection," Democratic Party Rep. Kim Kyo-heung told reporters.
Anger has been mounting toward the police and the government's response to the tragedy in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, South Korea's National Police Agency released transcripts of 11 calls to its 112 emergency hotline that warned of dangerous crowding conditions hours before the disaster.
Several of the desperate callers described people being crushed, while another pleaded for help, saying, "I really think someone's going to die." Police, however, only responded in person to four of the calls.
In the wake the crowd crush, South Korean police said Wednesday they would dispatch 600 officers to a mass World Cup fan event in Seoul.
The National Police Agency said it would deploy eight squads of riot police and 40 additional officers to Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul Thursday as the South Korean national men's soccer team played their first match of the World Cup in Qatar.