U.S. and U.K. delegations to leave World Scout Jamboree hit by heat wave


SEOUL — Members of the American, British and Singaporean contingents attending the World Scout Jamboree in Buan, South Korea, are preparing to pack up their tents and move out, as a heat wave caused hundreds of injuries and threatened to cut short the quadrennial international event.

The moves come as hot weather and humid conditions have pushed hundreds at the event to seek medical help. Close to 1,500 people received treatment for insect bites, skin rashes and heat injuries on Friday, the event organizers said. At the opening ceremony days earlier, 139 people suffered heat injuries, headaches and abdominal pain, the event’s organizers said.

The World Jamboree gathers tens of thousands of teens aged 14 to 18, plus adults, from Scout associations worldwide every four years. This year’s event was the first since the coronavirus pandemic.

The British contingent, which has the most people out of the 150-plus delegations attending the jamboree, said that it would move its 4,500 members to hotel accommodation in Seoul. “As we are the largest contingent, our hope is that this helps alleviate the pressure on the site overall,” it said in a statement.

The Boy Scouts of America also announced plans to move the 1,100 members of the U.S. contingent on Sunday to Camp Humphreys, the main U.S. military base in South Korea, which is about 100 miles north of the event site.

“Extreme heat and humidity caused challenging conditions for attendees,” the Boy Scouts of America said. “With the safety of all participants as a top priority, the U.S. contingent elected to depart the event early.”

Bear Grylls, the adventurer known for his survival shows, attended the event as the World Organization of the Scout Movement’s chief ambassador.

The Singapore Scout Association said it would move its 67 participants to Seoul, citing safety concerns. The Singaporeans will link up with the British in the South Korean capital, the association said.

South Korea has been hit by a heat wave during the world’s hottest month on record. The government raised the heat alert to its highest level for the first time in four years as temperatures climbed over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) this week. South Korea’s meteorological agency forecast highs of up to 93.2 degrees (34 Celsius) at Buan until Aug. 12, when the event concludes.

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The World Organization of the Scout Movement expressed concerns about heat risks and said it had advised South Korea to cut the event short. But the host “decided to go ahead with the event,” pledging to “do everything possible” to address the heat wave, the organization said.

“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 the participants their top priority,” it said.

South Korean government officials told reporters Saturday that the jamboree would continue as planned, but that they respected each delegation’s decision to pack up.

The jamboree’s South Korean organizers and government have faced mounting criticism for the heat-related injuries, squalid conditions at the event and accusations of poor planning.

Photos from the event show overflowing trash bins, while reports have mentioned a lack of shower facilities for male participants and venues “full of bugs and ticks.” The Washington Post could not immediately substantiate those claims. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said in an editorial that the jamboree was an international embarrassment.

In response, event organizers have said they have boosted the number of on-site sanitary workers and doctors, while the government has deployed the military to assist event organizers. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration said it would provide more than $7 million in additional financial support for the event.

Niha Masih in Seoul contributed to this report.


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