The Korea Herald


Safety is top priority as over 1m expected to gather for fireworks festival

Crowd control, road closures in Seoul expected through weekend

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Oct. 6, 2023 - 14:22

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Fireworks are seen during the 2022 Seoul International Fireworks Festival in October 2022. (Hanwha Group) Fireworks are seen during the 2022 Seoul International Fireworks Festival in October 2022. (Hanwha Group)

Crowd control measures and road closures can be expected in Seoul over the weekend as the capital gets ready for the 2023 Seoul International Fireworks Festival.

Ahead of the festival, which is set to take place in Yeouido on Saturday, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo ordered the government to execute detailed crowd control and put emergency medical arrangements in place near the site.

Han said Thursday authorities must work to designate entrances and exits at the venue, set up barriers to demarcate crowded areas and ensure emergency exits are not blocked, while urging all authorities concerned to stay in close communication to properly manage the crowds.

Moreover, fire prevention and emergency medical care systems should be a priority, according to Han.

Han also asked the authorities to heed overcrowding at subway station gates and bus stops as the crowds are expected to create a rush to move out of the festival venue after it ends.

According to the police, the event is anticipated to attract crowds of over 700,000 people in Yeouido, and up to 300,000 more are expected in the riverside parks near Ichon and Mangwon.

Some 5,400 police officers and security personnel are planned to be deployed, up 60 percent from the previous year's event, according to the government. An additional 36 rescue boats will be operational on the Han River on Saturday.

Some streets in Seoul will be closed temporarily, and public transit operators will adjust the frequency of buses and subways in order to prevent dangerous levels of overcrowding at the venues.

The street that stretches from the south end of Mapo Bridge to 63 Square will be closed off from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Road traffic will also be restricted on Gukjegeumyung-ro, the street connecting Parc 1 Tower and Yeoui-dong Community Service Center, from 1 p.m. and 11 p.m. The pedestrian walkway in the direction of Yeouido on Wonhyo Bridge will also be closed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Twenty buses in Seoul will have their routes changed to avoid the road closures, while an additional 14 buses will not stop on the Hangang Bridge from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Trains may not stop at Yeouinaru Station on Line No. 5 -- the closest subway station to the fireworks festival venue -- depending on the crowd levels. The station will shut down after the festival is over.

Ride-sharing services and taxis going to the festival venue or nearby bridges will temporarily suspend operations on Saturday.

Instead, subways on Line No. 5 and Line No. 9 will operate frequently during and after the festival, while 26 buses will also increase their frequency from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

More roads in eastern Yeouido may be subject to closure depending on road conditions and crowd levels, according to police.

Fines and other penalties for illegally parked vehicles will be strictly enforced on expressways along the Han River and nearby bridges, the police added.

These measures come as part of the government's efforts to prevent another tragedy from occurring, following the Itaewon crowd crush incident in October 2022 which killed 159 people.

The Interior and Safety Ministry pledged earlier this week to make safety a priority through October, during which nearly 600 events and festivals are set to take place.

The ministry also committed to carry out extensive pan-governmental monitoring for events where more than 1 million people are expected to gather, such as a separate fireworks festival which will take place in Busan in November.

The Safety Ministry noted that it is responsible for safety during spontaneous gatherings as well, with a related revision bill pending in the National Assembly. Saturday's event in Yeouido is hosted by Hanwha and is not classified as a spontaneous gathering.

Meanwhile, road closures will also be in effect in central Seoul on Sunday for the 11-kilometer Seoul Race.

Police said some 1,400 officers will be dispatched to the scene and that nearly 1,000 temporary traffic signs will be installed Sunday to reduce any inconvenience to citizens.