SEOUL, South Korea – President Yoon Suk-yeol thanked US President Joe Biden and other foreign leaders Tuesday for their condolences over the Halloween crowd crush, saying the government will provide the same assistance to local and foreign victims of the tragedy.
Yoon expressed his thanks during a Cabinet meeting held three days after the incident. At least 155 people, including 26 foreigners, were killed during the crowd surge in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon on Saturday.
"US President Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other foreign leaders sent their deep condolences," Yoon said. "On behalf of our people, I would like to deeply thank the foreign leaders and people for their warm consolation."
"We will do our best to assist the foreign casualties in the same way as our own people," he added.
The 26 foreign victims include five from Iran, four each from China and Russia, two from the United States, two from Japan, and one each from France, Australia, Norway, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Sri Lanka, officials said.
The incident was the deadliest crowd crush in South Korea's history and the worst disaster the country has seen since 2014, when the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the south coast and killed 304 people, mostly high school students.
Yoon called for fundamental measures to prevent a repeat of the tragedy, saying it clearly revealed the importance of crowd management, and the serious lack of systematic research and development related to the subject in the country.
"We need to actively use drones and other advanced digital capabilities to develop crowd management technologies and make the necessary institutional improvements," he said. "Rather than nitpicking about whether the event had an organizer or not, it's the people's safety that's important, and we need to come up with thorough measures."
Yoon said he will soon hold a meeting with relevant ministers and experts to review the national safety system.
He again thanked the people, medical workers, firefighters, police officers and all others who helped the victims by performing CPR and transporting them to hospitals, and to the nation for sharing in the grief.
"I am emphasizing this again, but the top priority in state affairs is handling the aftermath of this accident and taking follow-up measures," he said, again extending his condolences to the victims and their families, and wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.
Yoon later visited a mourning altar for the victims at Noksapyeong Station near the site of the accident. He was joined by members of the Cabinet and the presidential office.
It was Yoon's second visit to a mourning altar after he visited an altar in front of City Hall with first lady Kim Keon-hee on Monday. (Yonhap)