Japanese victim of Itaewon crush was ‘bright, dependable’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Flowers are seen Tuesday near the site of Saturday’s fatal crush in Itaewon, Seoul.

A Tokyo university expressed its condolences Tuesday over the death of freshman An Kozuchi, 18, one of two Japanese killed in a fatal crowd surge in Seoul on Saturday. Kozuchi, from Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, had been studying Korean in Seoul as part of her course at Tokyo Seitoku University in Kita Ward, Tokyo. The university announced Kozuchi’s death on its website without referring to her by name, stating, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of a life that brimmed with hopes for the future.”

An 18-year-old Kawaguchi high school student who worked part-time at the same restaurant as Kozuchi said, “She was cheerful, bright and lively … She was a dependable [workplace] senior.” The student said she had asked Kozuchi for career advice prior to her departure to Seoul in August.

The student would often check Kozuchi’s Japanese- and Korean-language social media posts, which detailed her experiences studying in South Korea, and believes Kozuchi had enjoyed her life in Seoul. “I’m sad that I won’t be able to see her again,” the student lamented.

From early September, Kozuchi attended a Korean language school attached to Konkuk University in the city. A person linked to the university who knew Kozuchi said, “She was bright and affable.” Kozuchi studied with about a dozen other overseas students from such countries as France, Thailand and China.

Following the tragedy, numerous flower bouquets have been placed on Kozuchi’s classroom desk, the university source said.

On Tuesday, members of Kozuchi’s family visited her university dormitory and retrieved her belongings. During their about 2½-hour visit, the family spoke with Kozuchi’s teacher and students who were close to her.

In Kawaguchi on the same day, Kozuchi’s grandfather told media he had received an e-mail from Kozuchi’s mother saying she had identified her daughter’s body. “I’m really sad,” the grandfather said.

Mei Tomikawa, 26, from Nemuro, Hokkaido, also died in the fatal crush.