South Korea evacuates scouts from disaster-hit World Jamboree due to approaching storm

The recently concluded World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum, South Korea has been marred by a range of challenges, including illness, poor infrastructure, and now the threat of a tropical storm. Over 40,000 scouts from 155 countries participated in the event, which saw temperatures reaching 35C (95F). As a result, hundreds of scouts fell ill, sparking concerns about the organization and facilities. With the arrival of a severe tropical storm, more than 1,000 buses were mobilized to evacuate the scouts from the campsite. Helicopters and police cars escorted the buses to safer locations in Seoul and its surrounding province of Gyeonggi.

Ahmad Alhendawi of the World Organization of the Scout Movement expressed that this was the first time in over 100 years of World Scout Jamborees that such compounded challenges were faced. The event experienced extreme heatwave conditions, followed by an incoming storm. The British scout group left early, citing poor sanitation and food quality as reasons for their departure.

To ensure the safety and comfort of the participants, the government arranged for accommodations at 128 sites across eight provinces and cities around Seoul. These included university halls and hotels, with the aim of allowing the scouts to continue their schedules with a “happy heart.” The event’s closing ceremony will now take place on Saturday at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, followed by a K-pop concert.

The organization of the jamboree has been heavily criticized by Korean media, describing it as a “national disgrace.” Six years of preparation were marred by poor drainage, inadequate shower and toilet facilities, and other shortcomings in hygiene. The Scout Chief acknowledged these issues in a LinkedIn post.

Severe Tropical Storm Khanun, which was originally classified as a typhoon, is expected to reach South Korea’s southern Jeolla province on Thursday. Although it has weakened, it still poses a significant threat with high winds and torrential rain.

It is worth noting that heatwaves like the one experienced at the campsite have become more frequent and intense due to human-induced climate change. The increased sea surface temperatures also contribute to more intense storms and extreme rainfall.

The impact of these challenges on the reputation of the World Scout Jamboree and South Korea as a host country cannot be overlooked. The event has been plagued by issues from the beginning, raising questions about the preparedness and management of such large-scale international gatherings. The evacuation of the scouts due to the approaching storm adds to the list of concerns and may further tarnish the image of the event and the country.

As the jamboree concludes with a closing ceremony and a K-pop concert, it remains to be seen how South Korea will address the aftermath of this challenging event and work towards enhancing its reputation for future international gatherings.