Scouting group asks South Korea to cut short World Scout Jamboree as heat wave prompts exodus
SEOUL, South Korea — The world watchdog urged South Korea to cut short the World Scout Jamboree as thousands of British scouts began leaving the coastal campsite on Saturday due to a punishing heat wave. American scouts were also preparing to withdraw.
Hundreds of participants have been treated for heat-related illnesses since the Jamboree began on Wednesday at the site in the coastal town of Buan as South Korea grapples with one of its hottest summers in years.
The World Organization of the Scout Movement said it asked South Korean organizers to “consider other options to end the event earlier than planned and support the participants until they leave to their home countries.”
If the organizers decide to go ahead, there must be a stronger commitment “They will do everything possible to address the issues caused by the heat wave by adding additional facilities ,” the group said in a statement.
“We continue to call on the host and the Korean government to honor their commitments to mobilize additional financial and human resources, and to make the health and safety of participants their top priority, ” he said.
The statement came after the UK Scout Association announced it was pulling more than 4,000 British Scouts out of the Jamboree and moving them to hotels over the weekend.
The departure of the largest national group at the Jamboree represented a major public relations setback for the South Korean hosts, who were committed to continuing the event.
Hundreds of American scouts were also expected to leave the site on Sunday and move to a US military base near the South Korean capital, Seoul, the group said in an email to members. They said the evacuation was necessary because of “the bad weather and the resulting conditions.”
The US Embassy in Seoul did not immediately respond to questions about whether the plan to accommodate the scouts at Camp Humphreys had been finalized. But the South Korean organizing committee confirmed that the Americans were among three national groups that decided to leave on Saturday afternoon, a group that also included dozens of scouts from Singapore.
Organizers have suspended activities that require strenuous physical effort and added more emergency vehicles, medical personnel and air conditioning to the site, while Seoul’s Foreign Ministry is operating a special task force to deal with concerns raised by foreign diplomatic offices regarding the safety of the event.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol promised an “unlimited supply” of air-conditioned buses and refrigerated trucks to bring chilled water to the site.
South Korea this week raised the hot weather warning to its highest level for the first time in four years, and temperatures around the country exceeded between 35 and 38 degrees Celsius (95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday. According to South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety, at least 19 people have died from heat-related illnesses across the country since May 20.
Around 40,000 scouts, mostly teenagers, from 158 countries came to the Jamboree at a campsite built on land that was reclaimed from the sea. About 4,500 were from the UK
Long before the start of the event, critics raised concerns about bringing so many young people to a large treeless area with no protection from the summer heat.
According to the South Korean government, 138 Jamboree participants received treatment for heat-related illnesses on Thursday alone. At least 108 participants were treated for similar ailments after Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
Choi Chang-haeng, secretary-general of the Jamboree organizing committee, said the event is safe enough to continue. He linked Wednesday’s large number of patients to a K-pop performance at the opening ceremony, which he said left many of the teenagers “exhausted after actively releasing their energy.”