June 10, 2023 08:40
Seven months after the Halloween stampede that killed 159 people, business is slowly recovering in the bar and shopping district of Itaewon.
Last Saturday many businesses started opening early in the afternoon and some were busy by evening.
The owner of a bar near the Hamilton Hotel was busy setting up 30 tables at 2 p.m. "The number of customers is increasing these days and I moved the opening hour forward from 3 p.m. to 1 p.m.," he said.
A 24-year-old visitor from northeastern Seoul who came to Itaewon with his girlfriend said, "I felt I should visit the scene of the Halloween tragedy and returned to Itaewon for the first time since August of last year. I was afraid of what the atmosphere would be like, but I'm glad to see things seem to have recovered."
But the painful memories have not been entirely erased. A small group of people were standing next to a memorial space set up next to the Hamilton Hotel, which was the scene of the worst of the crowd crush.
"It's hard to believe more than 100 people died here," one said. Some of them wrote messages of condolence on the wall.
According to KB Card, sales in the commercial district in April of this year recovered to 76.8 percent of levels seen in the third week of October last year, just before the tragedy. By the second week of May they had reached 87.4 percent.
The Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups has been trying to revive business in Itaewon since April, with exhibitions by famous artists, flea markets and discount coupons.
But some business owners say there is still a long way to go. A 58-year-old estate agent said, "More people are returning Itaewon, but they're coming mainly to establishments that are popular on Instagram, while other businesses are still suffering."
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