South Korea Halloween Tragedy: Two U.S. Citizens Among 154 Killed

Two Americans were among those killed in a deadly stampede during Halloween festivities in South Korea on Saturday night, the U.S. State Department said on Sunday.

At least 154 people, mostly in their teens and 20s, died after getting trapped and crushed when a huge crowd surged into a narrow alley in Itaewon, a nightlife district in Seoul.

"We can confirm that two U.S. citizens were among those killed in the tragedy in Itaewon on October 29th," a U.S. State Department official told Newsweek in an email. "Our staff in Seoul and colleagues in the United States are working tirelessly to provide consular assistance to the victims of last night's incident and their families."

The statement concluded: "We offer our sincerest condolences to the loved ones of those killed and continue to assist the injured. Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional details at this time."

Emergency services treat injured people in Seoul
Above, emergency services treat injured people after a stampede on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. Two Americans were among those killed in the deadly stampede during Halloween festivities. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

In a statement to Newsweek, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul said it "is working closely with local authorities and other partner organizations to assist U.S. citizens affected."

Philip Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, said: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of so many lives last night, to include two young Americans celebrating alongside their Korean friends and others from around the world."

The American flag was lowered to half-staff at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Sunday, in what Goldberg described as a gesture of "sorrow and respect."

Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul's Yongsan fire department, said 22 foreigners were among the dead, Reuters reported. He did not confirm their nationalities.

Rescue workers set up a makeshift emergency medical facility by a main road in Itaewon, according to local media reports. More than 140 ambulances were mobilized from across the country as well. Some of the injured were sent to Seoul National University Hospital, Kyung Hee University Hospital at Gangdong and Hanyang University Hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a week of national mourning. He also called for officials to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and review the safety of other large cultural and entertainment events to ensure they proceed safely.

"This is really devastating. The tragedy and disaster that need not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul amid Halloween [celebrations]," Yoon said during the speech, according to the Associated Press. "I feel heavy hearted and cannot contain my sadness as a president responsible for the people's lives and safety."

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon was in Europe on a visit at the time, but decided to cut the trip short and return to South Korea as the news of the stampede emerged, according to The Korea Times.

President Joe Biden released a statement on Saturday evening saying he was grieving with South Korea in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul. We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and send our best wishes for a quick recovery to all those who were injured," Biden said in a White House statement emailed to Newsweek. "The Alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or more vital – and the ties between our people are stronger than ever. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time."

Update 10/30/2022, 9:36 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comments from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.