5th December 2022 – (Seoul) Four senior police officers separately attended a court hearing on Monday to determine whether they will be arrested for their alleged bungled response to the deadly crowd crush in Seoul’s Itaewon neighbuorhood.
The four are Lee Im-jae, former head of the Yongsan Police Station covering the Itaewon district; Park Sung-min, former high-ranking intelligence officer; Kim Jin-ho, former intelligence officer at the Yongsan Police Station; and Song Byung-joo, former emergency monitoring officer at Yongsan Police Station.
It marked the first time that detention warrants were sought by a special investigation team probing the fatal crowd collapse on Oct. 29 that killed at least 158 people.
“I will faithfully undergo investigation,” Park told reporters upon his arrival at the Seoul Western District Court for the hearing.
A decision on whether to approve their arrest is expected to come late Monday night or early Tuesday.
The investigation team alleges Park, a superintendent general, ordered the deletion of an internal intelligence report giving prior warnings of a possible safety accident during the Halloween period in a suspected attempt to cover up inaction.
He is the highest-ranking police officer among the four.
Lee is under suspicion of arriving at the site late, some 50 minutes after the tragedy happened, police said.
He is also accused of not implementing enough crowd control measures after prior warnings of overcrowding during the Halloween celebrations, police said.
Kim, meanwhile, is accused of taking an order from Park and making his subordinates delete the report, according to the police.
Song, who was the chief emergency monitoring officer for the Yongsan Ward on the day, is accused of failing to promptly report the situation to Lee.