The World Scout Jamboree, a global gathering of young scouts from more than 150 countries, is facing a major crisis as thousands of participants have left the event early due to a severe heat wave in South Korea.
Heat wave warning issued for most of the country
South Korea has been experiencing one of its hottest summers in years, with temperatures soaring above 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country. The heat wave has caused at least 16 deaths and more than 1,200 heat-related illnesses since May, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The South Korean government has raised the heat wave warning to the highest “serious” level for the first time since 2019, and urged people to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities. The heat wave warning is issued when the highest perceived temperature is expected to be 35 C or higher.
World Scout Jamboree faces challenges from extreme weather
The World Scout Jamboree, which is held every four years, is taking place from August 1 to 12 at Saemangeum, a reclaimed land near the city of Buan on South Korea’s west coast. The event aims to promote peace, friendship, and cultural exchange among young people from different backgrounds and cultures.
However, the jamboree has been marred by the extreme weather conditions, which have made it difficult for the participants to enjoy the outdoor activities and camping experience. According to the organizers, about 43,000 scouts and leaders from 158 countries are attending the event, but many of them have suffered from heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburn.
Some of the scouts have also complained about the lack of shade, water, and air-conditioning at the campsite, as well as the poor hygiene and sanitation facilities. The organizers have tried to improve the situation by providing more water trucks, cooling tents, and medical staff, but they have not been able to meet the demand.
US and UK scouts pull out early
The situation has prompted some of the largest contingents from the United States and Britain to pull out of the jamboree a week early. The US group, which consists of about 3,000 scouts and leaders, said they made the “difficult decision” to leave the jamboree site early because of the “ongoing extreme weather and resulting conditions”.
The British group, which is the largest at the jamboree with about 5,000 members, said they were moving to hotels in Seoul for the rest of their stay, to alleviate pressure on the site. They also said they were disappointed by the “lack of communication and support” from the organizers.
Other countries that have left or are planning to leave early include Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Denmark. Some countries, such as the Philippines and Argentina, have said they would remain at the campsite despite the challenges.
World Organization of the Scout Movement calls for alternative options
The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), which oversees the jamboree, said it had asked the Korean Scout Association (KSA), which is hosting the event, to consider “alternative options to end the event earlier than scheduled and support the participants until they depart for their home countries”.
The WOSM also said it was concerned about the health and safety of all participants and staff at the jamboree, and that there needs to be stronger assurances that they will do everything possible to address the issues caused by the heat wave.
The KSA, however, has rejected the call to cut short the jamboree, saying that it would go ahead as planned until August 12. The KSA said it was doing its best to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all participants.
The South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has also intervened in the situation, ordering officials to roll out tour programs showcasing Korean culture and nature in Seoul and other cities for all scouts who wish to join.