K-Pop star and actor Lee Jihan has been confirmed as one of the victims of the Seoul Halloween stampede that has killed over 150 people.
Jihan, 24, found fame on a South Korean singing competition, before successfully moving into to acting.
The two agencies representing the star – 935 Entertainment and 9Auto Entertainment – confirmed the news on Sunday.
Posting a black square on Instagram, they wrote in their statement that they were “heartbroken to be greeted with sad news” of his death and told fans Jihan “has become a star in the sky and left us”.
Expressing their “heartfelt condolences” to his family and all those who loved him, they called him “a sweet and warm friend to all”.
They also wrote about his “bright smile” and paid tribute to his “passion for acting”, wishing him well for his “last journey”.
Jihan found fame on South Korean reality show Produce 101 back in 2017, where 101 K-pop hopefuls competed to win a place in an 11-member boy band.
Despite not being picked to be part of the final band – Wanna One – Jihan used the platform to move onto acting, starring in the South Korean high-school drama Today Was Another Nam Hyun Day.
Former Produce 101 contestants Park Heeseok, Kim Do-hyun and Cho Jin Hyung also paid tribute. They wrote in a joint statement: “Ji Han has left this world and gone to a comfortable place. We ask that you say goodbye to him on his final path.”
Funerals for the victims are already underway and South Korea’s government said it will offer support for funeral expenses.
According to AllKPop, Ji Han’s funeral will be held on 1 November.
‘I was there when she said she couldn’t breathe’
Other party-goers caught up in the crush, have described the “slow and agonising” horror as the disaster unfolded, with people unable to move or breathe when a large crowd pushed down a narrow street.
One witness, Nathan Taverniti, from Sydney, Australia, described the horror of watching his friend die in a now deleted TikTok video.
Mr Taverniti said: “I was there when she said she couldn’t breathe. We were yelling… ‘You have to go back, you have to turn around’… but nobody was listening.”
He described the situation not as a stampede, but as a “slow and agonising” crush. Two of his other friends were also injured.
In his video, which was viewed over nine million times, Mr Taverniti tearfully continued: “I watched as people filmed, and sang and laughed while my friends were dying, along with many other people.
“You know how many people were going to that event. Why were you not prepared?”
Olivia Jacovic, another witness from Australia, described her clothes being torn and her arms bruised in the crush, with people “packed like sardines” in the street.
The 27-year-old, who lives and works in Seoul, told Channel 9 news: “People just couldn’t breathe. The shorter people were just trying to look up in the air to get some sort of air.”
She said the Halloween party was located near a hill and she had heard rumours of people having “fallen down” at the bottom, leading to a “domino effect” of people tripping over one another.
Ken Fallas, a Costa Rican architect who has worked in South Korea for the last eight years, described seeing lots of young people unable to process what they had just witnessed, and laughing because they were “too scared” and didn’t know how to react to what was going on.
The 32-year-old added: “Nobody knew what was happening, people were still partying with the emergency happening in front of us.”
K-Pop releases and events cancelled
South Korea is now in a period of national mourning following the Halloween stampede in the party district of Itaewon, Seoul, which largely claimed the lives of young people in their teens or 20s.
The cause of the crush is currently unclear, but some local media reports suggested the crowd rushed down the narrow street after hearing an unidentified celebrity was in the area.
It’s been confirmed that at least 26 foreign nationals have been killed in the tragedy, from countries including America, Australia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Norway.
Numerous K-Pop music releases and events – many themed around Halloween – have been cancelled or postponed following the tragedy.
Two events with BTS member Kim Seok-jin scheduled for 30 and 31 October have been put on hold, and the 2022 Busan One Asia Festival concert featuring multiple South Korean singing stars, which had been due to take place on 30 October, has now been cancelled.
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