Prosecutors Cause Bereaved Families of Itaewon Disaster More Pain: One Prosecutor Mentioned the Possibility of Drugs when Suggesting an Autopsy

Lee Bo-ra 2022. 12. 5. 14:57
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The father of Yi Ji-han, a victim in the Itaewon Halloween crowd crush, falls to his knees and cries in a meeting between the special committee for the parliamentary inspection of the Itaewon disaster and a group for the establishment of a victims’ family organization at the National Assembly on December 1. Bak Min-gyu, Senior Reporter

News that a prosecutor mentioned drugs when asking the family of an Itaewon crowd crush victim if they wanted an autopsy was belatedly released, stirring controversy.

According to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on December 4, on October 30, the day after the Halloween crowd crush, a prosecutor from the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office visited a funeral parlor in Gwangju and asked a victim’s family if they wanted an autopsy. When suggesting the autopsy, the prosecutor mentioned the possibility of drugs and the need to identify the accurate cause of death. He said that an autopsy would give them a clear cause of death--whether it was due to pressure on the chest or due to drugs--mentioning the possibility of drugs.

The family opposed and the autopsy was never conducted. Reportedly, the family fiercely protested when the prosecutor mentioned drugs. In an interview with MBC on Sunday, the victim’s younger sister said, “He (the prosecutor) said that there were rumors about drugs, but that there was no concrete evidence, and suggested we conduct an autopsy. We were outraged because he seemed to accuse my sister of doing drugs based on a rumor.”

Earlier, some people raised the allegation that the police did not assign officers to control the crowd in Itaewon on the day of the tragedy unlike previous years because they were intent on cracking down on drugs. In fact, on the day of the crowd crush, a total of 137 police officers were assigned to Itaewon, and among them 79 were there to crack down on drugs and prevent crimes. The Yongsan Police Station sent the press a text message announcing a massive crackdown on drugs until nine minutes before the crowd crush.

On Sunday, a representative of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announced, “The prosecutors never requested an autopsy because of drugs,” and explained, “At the time, there were many reports of drug-related damages, and the prosecutor mentioned the reports and told the victim’s family to consider it when deciding on the autopsy.” He further explained, “It appears there was a misunderstanding as the prosecutor tried to explain various possibilities to clarify the cause of death.”

The representative said, “An individual’s use of drugs and drug-related crimes are not the target of the prosecutors’ investigation. There was no reason or grounds for the supervisors in the Prosecution Service to instruct prosecutors to conduct drug-related autopsies.” He further said, “At the time, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office instructed employees to deliver the victims’ bodies to the bereaved families as quickly as possible and to decide whether to conduct the autopsies after respecting the wishes of the families as much as possible,” and added, “We received a report that the other prosecutors never mentioned anything about drugs.”

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