About 43,000 people joined the jamboree that kicked off in North Jeolla province last week, but an extreme heatwave caused hundreds of scouts to fall ill, forcing Seoul to deploy military doctors, offer air-conditioned buses and vow an all-out effort to salvage the event.
American and British scout groups withdrew at the weekend, citing concerns over the extreme weather, even as organizers said the jamboree would continue, urging participants to view it as a “platform for overcoming challenges”.
But with a coming typhoon forecast to hit most of South Korea, including the campsite, the Jamboree was forced to end early.
“The World Organization of the Scout Movement received confirmation this morning from the Government of the Republic of Korea that due to the expected impact of Typhoon Khanun, an early departure will be planned for all participants,” the scout body 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 scout body said.
No details have been given on where the participants will stay until they return home.
South Korea’s presidential office said Monday that President Yoon Suk Yeol was briefed on a contingency plan for the Jamboree as the typhoon approached, hinting that the scouts may relocate to Seoul for the remainder of their stay.
“By ‘contingency plan’, it means the scouts’ accommodation and the remaining schedule can be moved to the metropolitan area including Seoul,” Yoon’s office said in a statement.
Yonhap news agency reported that all afternoon activities have been cancelled and the participants will begin leaving the campsite from Tuesday morning.
South Korea last week issued its highest-level hot weather warning.
The exit of British, American and other scout troops is a significant PR setback for the South Korean government, which on Friday called an emergency cabinet meeting and mobilized aid.
The presidential office approved $5.3 million in spending to support the jamboree, and Yoon on Saturday spoke by phone to camp organizers, urging them to offer more tourism programs to the scouts.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Saturday that organizers would “create and operate a tour program featuring South Korea’s industry, culture, history, and nature.”
Local media have described the situation as a “national disgrace,” given the time the country had to prepare for the event, which happens once every four years.