World Scout Jamboree in limbo as American and British groups pull out over extreme heat

By Reuters

The World Scout Jamboree in South Korea faced calls to be canceled on Saturday after large contingents from the United States and Britain pulled out a week early over extreme heat and weather conditions.

Saturday’s pullout by the US, as well as Singapore, is a fresh blow to the organizers and the South Korean government, which on Friday promised more water trucks, air-conditioned spaces and medics in an attempt to save the event.

Temperatures have hit 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) in Saemangeum, near the city of Buan on South Korea’s west coast, where 39,000 participants, mostly scouts of ages 14 to 18, were camping as of Friday.

Kristin Sayers from the US state of Virginia said her 17-year-old son Corey’s dream to take part in the jamboree, at a cost of $6,500, had turned into a “nightmare.”

“He’s very aware of how much money that is and the sacrifices we made as a family to send him. We could’ve done so much with that money,” she said.

In an effort to calm the situation, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered officials to roll out tour programs showcasing Korean culture and nature in Seoul and other cities, available for all scouts.

Some countries, including the Philippines and Argentina, have said they would remain at the campsite despite challenges from extreme weather.

“We are seeing around the site some improvements,” Marina Rustan, president of the Argentina Scout Association, told a press conference. “We had the word of the leadership of the government that things will be improved.”

A participant receives medical treatment at Jamboree Hospital during the 25th World Scout Jamboree in Buan, South Korea, August 4, 2023.

The US contingent will take part in a jamboree program on Saturday before moving to US Army Garrison Humphreys near the jamboree site on Sunday, according to an email reviewed by Reuters.

“The US contingent to the World Scout Jamboree has made the difficult decision that we will be departing the 25th World Scout Jamboree site early because of ongoing extreme weather and resulting conditions at the jamboree site,” said the email sent to parents by the US group’s media team.

Britain, the largest grouping at the jamboree, said on Friday they were moving to hotels in Seoul for the rest of their stay, to alleviate pressure on the site.

British scouts were seen leaving the campsite with their bags in Buan on Saturday morning, according to a witness.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement said in a statement on Friday it had asked the Korean Scout Association to consider “alternative options to end the event earlier than scheduled and support the participants until they depart for their home countries.”

Organizers would meet on Saturday to discuss whether to continue, cancel or scale back the event, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Hit by extreme heat, hundreds of participants at the event fell ill and were treated for heat-related ailments, prompting complaints from parents over the safety of their children.

More than 150 countries were taking part in the gathering as of Friday, according to officials.

The jamboree is scheduled to run until August 12.

Related Articles

Back to top button