On July 6, 2023, a train on Line 9 of Seoul’s subway system was evacuated quickly after suspicions of irregularities raised. The train was approaching the Sinnonhyun station, where many disembarked and authorities were dispatched.
Two possible causes were quickly pointed out online.
1. Screams by fans on the subway
The first involved the mass of BTS fans traveling back from a concert by Suga. It was claimed that fans had been occupying most of the subway at that hour, and when their idol went on live stream to show off a tattoo, excited screaming ensued. The screaming allegedly set off a false alarm amongst other subway passengers. This comes at a time where knife attacks in public are rampant, terrorizing the country.
A Twitter user, @tom7890_, claimed to have been on site, providing screenshots with their calls to the police. They claimed that a foreigner next to them had screamed, causing panic. They also have allegedly provided the same witness statement to the police.
신논현역 칼부림도 생화학 테러도 아니니까 더 이상 잘못된 정보로 공포분위기 조성하지 말아주세요
제 옆에 외국인 분들이 영상 보다가 소리 질렀는데 지하철 안이 복잡한 터라 사람들이 오해하고 도망친 거에요
경찰 진술도 다 했습니다.
물론 다들 조심하시고 이어폰 빼고 다니시길..
— 제촌 (@tom7890_) August 6, 2023
It’s not a chemical attack or a knife attack at the Sinnonhyun station, so I hope that people will stop creating fear due to false information any longer.
The foreigner next to me was watching a video, and suddenly screamed, causing the situation in the subway carriage to complicate. People misunderstood and ran away.
I gave my witness statement to the police too.
Of course, I hope that everyone can be careful and travel with your earphones out. Stay healthy.
They also provided some photos of the aftermath of the situation. Belongings were left behind in urgency, and the police were also dispatched.
Later on, a video of a group of fans screaming aboard an unspecified train went viral on Twitter. The video was posted by @egcanzina, who had screamed upon seeing the tattoo reveal. The video was soon deleted after @egcanzina realized the trouble that they had caused online, but was reposted by user @meeoee88. User @meeoee88 was not on site during the matter.
— . (@meeoee88) August 6, 2023
It wasn’t a knife attack at Sinnonhyun, but apparently fans returning home after BTS Suga’s concert were screaming because he revealed his tattoo on live stream…
So, was the issue really caused by BTS fans? @egcanzina has already apologized for their behavior on public transport. They also claim not to have been on the train that was evacuated.
Even if their video had been misconstrued by @meeoee88, witnesses on site still claim that the screaming was due to fans watching the live stream.
Another also pointed out that news sites reported the time that reports began streaming in to the police and fire stations were around 8.34 to 8.36pm. At the same time, Suga’s tattoo was revealed around 8.33pm. The extremely close timing has people suspecting that the screams led to misunderstanding.
8시 33분쯤 슈가 타투 공개, 9호선 팬들 소리지름
8시 34분쯤 소방 경찰 신고
지하철에서 비명소리가 들려서 이상감지한 승객들이 맡은 냄새가 아마 팬들 땀냄새…?
이게 번져서 생화학테러라는 오해로 이어진듯 pic.twitter.com/WxXlfpo8AP
— llll (@llll619180) August 6, 2023
The Sinnonhyun station incident. Suga’s tattoo was revealed at around 8.33pm. Fans screamed. Reports went in to the police and fire stations at around 8.34pm.
Did the passengers hear the screams and begin thinking something is weird, perhaps due to smelling the fans’ sweat? Feels like this spread and was misconstrued as a chemical threat.
2. Chemical gas threat
The second possible cause was a chemical threat that was reported by witnesses on site. Some people at the station claimed to smell a strange scent, with some even feeling strange after sniffing it. According to SBS News, 7 people were injured in the disarray as people tried to escape.
The fire department, who usually handles gas threats in South Korea, were quickly dispatched to the scene. Twitter user @nana_yen_, who was on site, confirmed with the dispatched firefighters that there were indeed reports of strange smells.
9호선 급행 신논현 칼부림은 아닌듯 싶어요
객실내 이상한 냄새로 인한 신고 랍니다
소방관분 들 피셜…
9로선 급행 운행 정지한데요 pic.twitter.com/YUBqGD3QDe
— slow 연 (@nana_yen_) August 6, 2023
I think the issue on the fast train on Line 9 isn’t a knife attack. They said it was due to reports about a strange scent in the carriage. This was confirmed by the firefighters. They’re gonna stop the running of the fast train on Line 9.
Later on, it was confirmed by the fire department that no abnormalities were detected.
3. The verdict
An ARMY who had been on site, and personally made a police report about sudden panic and disarray on Line 9 clarified the situation. Although they did not state the reason for the initial panic, they claimed that it was as a few people started to panic, that everyone else began escaping. In the rush, that was when people began to get hurt.
상황설명)전철 안에서 앞칸쪽 사람들이 무언가에 놀란듯 느닷없이 뛰기 시작했어요
중간에 있던 저포함 사람들은 상황을 모르지만 아무튼 공포스럽게 뛰니까 같이 달렸고
제가 있던 칸 3-3 기준 넘어진 분들 3명은 봤어요 그 뒤에도 더 있었을거 같음 가방도 내던지고 달리고 이게 부산행인가 싶었다ㅠ
— 선샤인💜첫5구역막34구역💜 (@lovesy92) August 6, 2023
To explain the situation, in the subway, the people in the carriages up front seemed to be shocked at something, and they started running all of a sudden. The people in the middle, including me, didn’t know what was going on, but since people were running so afraid lay, we also ran too. From the POV of carriage number 3-3 where I was at, I saw three people fall down. I think there was more behind. People threw their bags away and started running. I thought this was like Train To Busan or something.
It is clear that the injuries were caused by general panic and disarray, as people rushed to leave the area. As for the initial cause, both seem plausible due to witness reports. Korean news outlet, News1, also reported that both “weapon threats” and “chemical threats” were reported to the police and fire stations during the incident.
Hence, it is highly possible that both causes resulted in the commotion. That being said, rather than blame the panicked citizens, or the fans, extra care should be taken during this time of unrest in South Korea.
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