2023 Herat Earthquakes
Starting from the 7th of October, 2023, the Herat Province of Western Afghanistan suffered a series of high-magnitude earthquakes. The first two earthquakes caused nearly 1,500 deaths, as well as over 3,000 total casualties, with their aftershocks also causing severe human and infrastructural damage. Searches for the victims are still ongoing, as over 100,000 residents are now in desperate need of humanitarian aid. The situation has definitely worsened due to the restrictions put on Afghan citizens and areas by the recently reformed Taliban government, with aid groups facing both a lack of funding and a lack of accessibility. Despite the barriers, groups such as UNICEF, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and more have been fully dedicated to providing support for displaced residents. The general situation is still dire, as hospitals in Herat are struggling to find the equipment or room for the overflow of patients, but is also somewhat improving, as people worldwide send their support through donations and volunteering.
Halloween is a celebration, or holiday, observed in many countries around the world, generally related to horror and trickery. Symbolised by the traditional jack-o-lantern or the activity or trick-or-treating, Halloween is perhaps one of the most intriguing of the ‘unofficial’ holidays of the world, as it is accompanied by extremely fun and entertaining activities that catch the attention of most of the world, many of whom seek the joy of partying. It originates from Western Christian cultures, namely the ‘All Hallows’ Day’, which honours all saints of the church, including those that are dead or ‘departed’. The Halloween spirit of horror originates from this particular portion, as the supernatural are seen as ghosts, or other fearful subjects.
Trick-or-treating is Halloween’s most renowned and celebrated tradition, as most living in suburban or overall residential areas of Western or Westernised countries tend to prepare for it in some sort of way or form. A conventional ‘trick-or-treat’ goes like this: children go around houses wearing their own costumes. They knock on the houses and greet the owner with the phrase ‘trick-or-treat!’, where “treat” means a snack or a form of confectionery, and “trick” implying a form of mischief they might perform if the snack is not given to them. The owner, usually prepared with snacks, hands them out. Costume wearing and snack giving make up the uniqueness of trick-or-treating, with 35 million kids dressing up every year, and over $3 billion used up on snacks every year.
Korea’s Halloween Celebrations
While Halloween has not been a prevalent event in Korea for very long, it has certainly become quite popular in a brief amount of time. As Korea is mostly made up of apartments, or urban-style and not suburban-style residences, trick-or-treating is rendered either very complicated or impossible. As a solution, Korea tends to turn their Halloween spirits to partying. Bringing the costume-wearing and snack-giving cultures to party places, Koreans gather in large venues or clubs to celebrate their evenings. First publicly celebrated about 30 years ago (as seen in the first photo), South Korea has led its own style of specialised Halloween celebrations, with each year recording larger and larger participation numbers.
Unfortunately, just last year, there was an event that put the future of Korean Halloween celebrations in question. In Itaewon, the Mecca of Halloween partying in Seoul, there was a catastrophic crowd crush that killed over 150 and injured much more. Called ‘the most widely publicised Korean tragedy in nearly a decade,’ the Itaewon tragedy turned Halloween into a much more avoided or feared day than should be. A little over a year since the event, many still mourn for the casualties that day, and many tend to turn away from celebrating Halloween nowadays.
Despite the tragedy of last year, Halloween was still widely celebrated in Seoul, as well as the rest of Korea, this past weekend. Many turned up to the streets of Hongdae and Gangnam, and most reported to have a wonderful time, with much less injuries or harmful happenings. The security in areas such as Hongdae, Gangnam, and Itaewon have all increased majorly, as most are now aware of the dangers that can come from unrestricted gatherings. Koreans now wish for a more refined and composed domestic Halloween culture, where partying is still as fun as ever, but boundaries and etiquettes are underscored and made clear to all.
Cultural Awareness Committee
Hyunseok (Elliott) Lee