The Korea Herald


Ministry denies blame for Jamboree debacle

Gender Ministry says Jamboree was under control of Scouting organizations

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : April 24, 2024 - 16:34

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International Scouts gather at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Mapo-gu, Seoul, during the 2023 World Scout Jamboree, on Aug. 11, 2023. (Herald DB) International Scouts gather at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Mapo-gu, Seoul, during the 2023 World Scout Jamboree, on Aug. 11, 2023. (Herald DB)

South Korean government denied claims raised by the World Organization of Scout Movement, which said its status as "de-facto organizer" was partly to blame for the Korea Scout Association's disastrous hosting of the 25th World Scout Jamboree in North Jeolla Province in August last year.

Appointed by the World Scout Committee after the event, an independent six-member review panel said that the hosts, the Korea Scout Association, was sidelined by the Korean government because of the large funding provided by the latter.

This exacerbated existing organizational challenges for the event and contributed to the site not being properly checked, and medical support and sanitary conditions for the safety of youth participants and volunteers being not adequately prepared, according to the panel.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, however, denied the claims, stating that it was a supporter of the event, not an organizer.

The Gender Ministry said the event was hosted by the Korea Scout Association and the World Organization of the Scout Movement. It emphasized that the Korean government provided only financial and event-related support requested by the related organizations.

But it also said the event was operated by the Jamboree organizing committee, of which three of the five co-chairs were government officials.

It said that the monitoring and control of the event remained in the hands of the World WOSM, according to the guidelines they provided. The report identifies the hosts as the Korea Scout Association.

This falls in line with the confusion identified in the report over who was responsible for what. It said gaps in the accountability framework that led to significant differences in perception between the different organizations as to who should have been responsible for the success or failure of the event.

The panel concluded that the leadership structure for the Jamboree, which had five co-chairs, “blurred lines on authority” and made it both “extremely difficult to pin responsibility on anyone” and “easy to leave tasks unaccomplished.”

The absence of a "control tower" was also pinpointed as the main reason for the Jamboree debacle.

The co-chairs of the event were the then-minister of gender equality and family along with Rep. Kim Yoon-deok, who represents a district in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. This was later expanded to include the minister of the interior and safety, the minister of culture, sports and tourism and the president of the Korean Scout Federation as co-chairs.

It also pointed out that Korean government officials involved in the organizing of the 25th World Scout Jamboree failed to provide the panel with information, especially concerning financial statements relating to the event.

In response, the Gender Equality Ministry claimed that the government had not been asked by World Scout to provide any information in the preparation of the report, nor had it been consulted on the composition and role of the panel.

Approximately 43,000 participants, mainly Scouts aged 14 to 18 from 158 countries, arrived in Saemangeum, North Jeolla Province, only to be evacuated a week later amid snowballing concerns over unrelenting heat, inadequate shelter, insufficient sanitation, food safety, insect- and water-borne diseases and a looming typhoon.

Meanwhile, the Gender Equality Ministry said Wednesday it would visit Saemangeum, a reclaimed tidal flat area of Buan, North Jeolla Province where 2023 Jamboree took place, to inspect the campsite's situation and discuss further consultation issues on the liquidation of the committee.