Amid mounting public ire over Itaewon response, growing calls for PM’s removal

Posted on : 2022-11-03 15:30 KST Modified on : 2022-11-03 15:30 KST
The prime minister’s joking remark at a recent foreign media press conference have added fuel to the fire
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo leaves a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters at the government complex in Seoul on Nov. 2. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo leaves a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters at the government complex in Seoul on Nov. 2. (Yonhap)

With the revelation that the government responded poorly to the Itaewon disaster — the police ignoring more than 10 reports concerned about a crowd crush — both the ruling and opposition parties have been demanding that those responsible for the incident be reprehended.

Some have also demanded an apology from President Yoon Suk-yeol, in addition to calling for several high-ranking officials to be replaced, including Minister of Internal and Safety Lee Sang-min, National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun, and Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, who showed “inappropriate behavior” at a foreign press meeting the previous day.

At an emergency meeting at the National Assembly on Wednesday, People Power Party interim leader Chung Jin-suk said, “There had been reports hours before the incident expressing fear of a crowd crush and requesting police to control the scene,” adding, “Those responsible must be held accountable.”

Earlier, on Monday, Chung had distanced himself from responsibility, saying, “This is a time for mourning, not for questioning.” He seems to have altered his position as public anger grew over the police’s poor response.

Lawmakers of the People Power Party who were former police also strongly criticized the police for ignoring the reports. Lawmaker Kwon Eun-hee told the Hankyoreh over the phone, “They could have simply dressed the police in uniform, placed them in crowded locations by communicating with radios, and made them shout out ‘Keep to the right.’ This was all that was needed to prevent the disaster, and yet they missed the chance.”

Another former police lawmaker said, “Yoon Hee-keun should be held responsible for the insolvency of the police, as well as Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, who oversees safety affairs.”

The leadership of the Democratic Party officially demanded that Lee Sang-min and Yoon Hee-keun be ousted.

“The person ultimately accountable for the Itaewon disaster is, of course, President Yoon Suk-yeol,” said lawmaker Jeong Cheong-rae during a meeting of the Democratic Party’s supreme council.

“Lee Sang-min and Yoon Hee-keun must be dismissed immediately. All judicial measures must be taken, including an investigation on allegations of reducing and concealing the disaster,” added Jeong.

Meanwhile, the Justice Party demanded an apology from the president.

“We demand that President Yoon apologize to the public as the nation’s leader who is responsible for the lives and safety of the people,” said Lee Jeong-mi, the party’s leader, at an emergency delegation meeting.

Lee Eun-ju, the Justice floor leader, claimed, “We can no longer leave the government to find out the cause on its own,” and pushed to add “stage investigation” as the party’s platform.

There have been calls from within the ruling party for Han to be replaced in his role as prime minister after laughing and joking at a foreign press conference the previous day.

Former lawmaker Yoo Seong-min wrote on Facebook, “In the eyes of the world, Han insulted the souls of victims and brought shame to the Korean people. How is the country supposed to function properly with him as prime minister?”

“The president should hold those accountable for the disaster with a determination to reorganize the government. I urge the president to make a decision,” continued Yoo, functionally calling for Han to be ousted.

“The prime minister was imprudent [for joking at a foreign press conference]. What’s wrong with the prime minister leaving when 156 people are dead? Everyone must take responsibility,” said another lawmaker of the People Power Party.

On the same day, Han said, “I apologize for making people feel uncomfortable regardless of the circumstances.”

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Shim Wu-sam, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter; Kim Hae-jeong, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles