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Unfiltered images of tragedy risk adding to victims' pain

A man on his knees pays tribute at a memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween crowd surge in Seoul`s Itaewon at Seoul Plaza, in front of Seoul City Hall, Monday. (Yonhap)
A man on his knees pays tribute at a memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween crowd surge in Seoul`s Itaewon at Seoul Plaza, in front of Seoul City Hall, Monday. (Yonhap)

Photographs and video footage of the Itaewon disaster have circulated online via social media, fanning concerns of further damage to the victims as well as possible trauma for the public.

Soon after the crowd surge at Itaewon began claiming the lives of people late Saturday, photographs and video footage of the incident went viral on social media, especially as a large number of victims and observers at the scene were in the target demographics for heavy social media users.

The online circulation of such images and videos, however, could lead to further damage to the victims and leave traumatic effects for the larger public, authorities and experts warned.

“Please refrain from sharing comments of hate against the victims and spreading false information (or) provocative scenes of the incident online,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said at a disaster response meeting held Monday. Han is in charge of running the state-led response for the Itaewon incident.

Following the incident, video footage portraying the devastating scene of the crush without blurring or proper screening went viral online. Some even show the faces of victims and dead bodies lying in the street.

"This is a devastating event where so many people have lost their lives. It like we are consuming this as if watching a movie," an online user commented.

Social media platforms are asking users to cooperate in respecting the victims of the incident and to prevent causing further damage.

Twitter Korea issued a statement reading: "Please refer to the policies (on sensitive media) when tweeting images and videos of the Itaewon incident and refrain from retweeting provocative content."

The social media platform warned it can take action against such content and users.

Kakao, the Korean tech giant with a heavily dominant messaging service, also called for users to refrain from sharing uncertain details of the incident or photos and clips that reveal the identity of the victims.

Some on social media could be seen putting the blame on the victims for visiting the crowded Itaewon district for the Halloween celebrations.

The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association issued a statement Sunday calling for the nation to refrain from creating further confusion amid the crisis.

The association said the public should refrain from spreading photographs and video footage of the incident that could lead to further damage and perhaps traumatize members of the larger public.

"Hateful language observed in disaster situations deepen the trauma of the bereaved and those who were at the scene," the statement read. "Such hatred and branding cause social conflict and are not of any help in resolving a crisis.”

Police said they will take strict measures against those who spread misleading information on the incident and invade the privacy of the victims. The National Police Agency is running a response center dedicated to the cyberbullying.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)

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