Typhoon Khanun forces early end of World Scout Jamboree in South Korea

The World Scout Jamboree, a global event that brings together thousands of young scouts from different countries, has been cut short due to the threat of Typhoon Khanun, which is expected to hit South Korea this week. The organizers announced on Monday that all participants will have to leave the campsite in Buan County, in the southwest of the country, before the original end date of August 12.

World Scout Jamboree in South Korea

Extreme heat and poor sanitation marred the event

The jamboree, which started on August 1, attracted about 43,000 scouts from 158 countries, according to the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). The event was supposed to offer various outdoor activities, cultural performances, sustainability workshops and other opportunities for the young participants, mostly middle and high school students.

However, the event was plagued by several issues, including:

  • A heatwave that caused hundreds of scouts to suffer from heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. South Korea has issued heatwave warnings across most of the country since late July, with temperatures reaching up to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) in some regions.
  • Poor sanitation and hygiene conditions at the campsite, which was built on a vast, treeless area reclaimed from the sea. Many scouts complained about the lack of clean toilets, showers and drinking water, as well as the presence of rotten food, mosquitoes and flies. Some parents also reported that their children did not have enough food, sleeping gear or even beds.
  • Insufficient medical services and staff to cope with the large number of patients. The on-site hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of scouts seeking treatment for various ailments. On Sunday alone, nearly 1,300 people visited the hospital, according to Kim Hyun-sook, the minister of Gender Equality and Family.

British and American contingents left early

Some of the contingents decided to leave the campsite early due to the unsatisfactory conditions. The British and American groups announced on Friday that they would move their 4,500 and 3,000 scouts respectively to other locations.

Matt Hyde, the UK Scouts chief executive, told the BBC that they felt let down by the organizers because they had repeatedly raised their concerns before and during the event, but they were not addressed properly.

“We were promised things were going to be put in place and they weren’t,” Hyde said. “If you can imagine [toilets] that are being used by thousands and thousands of people that are not being cleared with the regularity you would expect, you can imagine the sort of things that people were seeing.”

Hyde said relocating 4,500 people had cost the Scout Association well over £1m ($1.4m), which had come from its reserves.

Organizers secured evacuation venues for scouts

The organizers said they had received confirmation from the South Korean government on Monday morning that an early departure will be planned for all participants due to the expected impact of Typhoon Khanun. The typhoon is forecast to make landfall over the Korean peninsula on Thursday, with up to 150 millimeters (6 inches) of rainfall expected.

Choi Chang-haeng, secretary-general of the jamboree’s organizing committee, said they had secured more than 340 evacuation venues, including community centers and gyms, in regions near Buan. Local governments and cities across the country also offered to provide accommodation and experience programs for the scouts.

The WOSM said in a statement: “We urgently call on the government to expedite the plan for departure and provide all necessary resources and support for participants during their stay and until they return to their home countries.”

The WOSM also apologized for any inconvenience or disappointment caused by the early closure of the event. It said it would conduct a thorough review of what happened and learn from it for future events.

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