South Koreans’ anger at the handling of the stampede that killed at least 156 people in Seoul on October 29 is mounting. They feel increasingly fooled by the state. That could cost their President the office.

In Korea, those voices that were silent on the eve of the tragedy are now outdoing one another in public calls for an investigation into the Itaweon tragedy. It is now clear that those responsible in the police did not respond to at least 11 emergency calls, many of them hours before the deadly escalation. Accordingly, two high-ranking officials were fired: the superintendent, who was actually in charge of Itaewon, and the police chief of Yongsan, the district where Itaewon is located.

Police and the Interior Ministry have announced further investigations. However, the Korean public does not consider the organizations responsible for the disaster to be the right actors to investigate and discipline themselves. To dismiss two responsible persons as scapegoats in order to always be able to refer to them, but having done something, will therefore not be enough.

Meanwhile, on social media, a police officer is highlighted who was not even on duty at the party mile in Itaewon that horrible evening and yet did his best to prevent the tragedy: Cell phone videos show Kim Baek-gyeom, as the only one Police officer tries to prevent further access to the street where many people died. As the only man in uniform in the crowd, he yells at people pleadingly and shows alternative routes with desperate gestures. Officer Kim doesn’t want any attention. Rather, he would like her to stay with the victims and their families.

Once again the young have fallen victim to the inadequacy of the old. It was only on the second day after the tragedy that the first high-ranking figures made statements that no longer spoke of an “accident”. It was only after the emergency calls became known that everyone, right up to the President, could no longer avoid speaking of blatant human error.

A total of 58 police officers were assigned to keep an eye on Itaewon’s expected 100,000 visitors. That’s significantly fewer than the hundreds who protect Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol every day. Shortly after taking office in August 2021, he arranged for the country’s police forces to report to him. This move reminded many Koreans of the days of military rule before Korea became a democracy in 1992.

In addition, the President did not want to move into the living quarters that are available for him in the “Blue House”, the official residence of the head of state, but to move to another dwelling that has better feng shui than the “Blue House”. Yoon and his wife are said to believe in shame, which ultimately led to the decision to give up the office. Whatever the case, the move has meant that hundreds more police officers are on duty every day to protect the President on his way from home to his office, which is still in the “Blue House,” and back. That’s significantly more than the 58 uniformed men who were assigned to serve 100,000 people.

As early as 2014, Korea’s young generation fell victim to neglect at the hands of those who were supposed to be protecting them: more than 300 children died when the overloaded, poorly-maintained Sewol ferry en route from the mainland to Jeju Island sank. At that time, too, it was only the large public protest that prompted politicians to adequately investigate the tragedy. The ferry operator was ordered to pay damages and the captain was sentenced to life imprisonment. Korean society is now experiencing another traumatic event of horrifying proportions that could have been prevented in less than a decade.

For Yoon Suk-yeol, the Itawon tragedy could actually mean the end of his presidency. Even before Itaewon, there were protests and calls for his resignation. Yoon was elected to office with the slimmest majority since the introduction of democracy. A little later, in August of this year, his popularity ratings dropped considerably due to a half-baked school reform and the refusal to meet US politician Nancy Pelosi in person on her trip to Asia last summer.