[Letter to the editor]New Year’s mayhem in Jongno
The New Year’s Eve party is always joyous and festive. If you want to be at the center of it in Korea, there is no place like Boshingak, Jongno, where you can see and hear the striking of the bell.
Jongno was where I was at midnight on the last day of December. The crowd made the event all the more exciting, and even the bitter cold was not as hard to bear.
Counting down till the last second of the year with complete strangers next to me, I could feel that we were all sincerely wishing for the same thing: a brighter new year.
Had the party finished with the same warmth and hope, I would not have headed home so disappointed.
It was when people started walking toward the subway station that things started getting out of control. With such a large crowd of people heading in the same direction, it may be easy to imagine people moving slowly in an orderly fashion.
Unfortunately, this did not happen to be the case on Jan. 1 at Jongno, when a few overexcited ― and probably drunk, judging from their behavior ― Seoulites began pushing hard from behind.
Because the road was not wide enough for the crowd of people to speed up, people were pushed viciously all the way up to the nearest intersection.
It was an experience that nearly suffocated me, and it was pitiful to watch parents trying to protect their children in the midst of the chaos. In fact, one lady actually tripped, and was almost trampled. I cannot forget the look of terror in her eyes.
Aside from such confusion and turmoil, the air was filled with smoke from all the fireworks that were being sold on the streets. They were exploding threateningly from all directions, spraying the air with ashes and thinning the air of oxygen.
I did not witness any accidents caused by the fireworks, but having been at the scene was enough to let me imagine dangerous situations where people could have been injured as a result of carelessness when handling fireworks.
The media reporting on the celebration mainly focused on the large number of people who had gathered to celebrate.
The fact that nine people were injured and taken to the hospital due to the general chaos and misuse of fireworks was only mentioned very briefly.
The streets of Jongno on New Year’s Day were full of festive spirit, but at the same time became a scene of danger and injury ― thankfully not serious ― but aren’t nine injuries enough to call the party out of hand? The striking of the Boshingak Bell is a big national event, and citizens should have the right to attend and enjoy the event in safety.
However, from what I experienced, no appropriate measures were taken by the many policemen who were stationed at Jongno when a few citizens decided to run amok, and nothing was done to prevent the misuse of fireworks which affected the safety of many.
Moreover, these problems were not considered very seriously, nor brought to attention by the media.
At such a massive annual event, such safety problems must be brought to an end. For the celebration of the New Year to end as the true party that it starts as, the maturity of those attending is required first and foremost.
The disorderly behavior of just a few citizens can expose many others to danger. Along with this, stricter restrictions on the selling and lighting of fireworks are also needed.
Overall, realizing the importance of keeping the party in the boundaries of safety is essential. I sincerely hope that when the time comes to celebrate the dawn of the year 2009, I can fully enjoy the party, without worries of safety on my mind.
Sophia Ha, a senior at
Seoul National University