The Korea Herald


Foreign embassies worried over Scouts' safety

Clear updates are needed to respond to queries from family members at home, they say

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : Aug. 8, 2023 - 15:46

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British Scouts prepare to leave the jamboree site in the Saemangeum reclamation area on the country's southwest coast due to a sweltering heat wave on Aug. 5. (Yonhap) British Scouts prepare to leave the jamboree site in the Saemangeum reclamation area on the country's southwest coast due to a sweltering heat wave on Aug. 5. (Yonhap)

Foreign embassies in Seoul have expressed concern over the safety and well-being of the young delegates in the World Scout Jamboree, as tens of thousands of participants were being relocated to other parts of the country unexpectedly to avoid an incoming typhoon.

The embassies' major concern is the condition of accommodations offered to the 36,000 Scouts as they began their early departure from the Saemangeum campsite in North Jeolla Province Tuesday morning. They also want to have clear and specific updates from the Korean government, since they will be dispersed across the country.

"The briefing provided by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety this morning (Tuesday morning) was not very clear to us. It should be more specific, considering the sensitivity of the situation and the potential for mishaps," a diplomat said, requesting anonymity.

The diplomat emphasized that the safety and well-being of the participants are more important than ensuring a positive festival experience.

One of the key concerns is the need to track down the exact location and status of the jamboree members to address urgent queries from concerned family members in their home countries.

"At this time, the main concern is having a safe relocation of the contingents to adequate places where they will have proper accommodation and food," the Colombian Embassy in Seoul said in a statement.

The government said Monday that they plan to provide emergency lodging in administrative and private educational facilities in cities that would not be directly affected by Typhoon Khanun, which is likely to hit the east coast on Thursday.

While challenges posed by the heat wave and Typhoon Khanun persist, a Slovakian diplomat noted that the Slovakian delegation has been faring well under the circumstances.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and are in constant contact with the leader of the Slovakian delegation," he said, adding the Slovakian Embassy is ready to support the team.

"We welcome the decision to move jamboree members due to the heat wave and typhoon."

Lucas Pavez, consul at the Chilean Embassy in Seoul, told The Korea Herald that he welcomes the early departure decision and said that "it was needed."

He, however, said that more swift, concise and timely briefings will greatly help embassies in responding to queries from family members.

A Peruvian diplomat mentioned that three of their Scouts initially experienced symptoms of dehydration due to the heat wave, but they are now en route to the relocation point in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

"Peruvian Embassy officials plan to visit the members to ensure their well-being," he told The Korea Herald.

One Egyptian diplomat said they hope their Scouts will go back with "positive experiences and memories despite all the challenges they have faced."

Meanwhile, Hong Seok-in, ambassador for public diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, briefed the emergency evacuation plan to 78 foreign embassies in a second meeting on Monday.

Hong took note of the embassies’ opinions and reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the safety of the jamboree participants as a top priority.

The 2023 Saemangeum World Scout Jamboree Task Force, led by Vice Minister Oh Young-joo, was formed on Friday to communicate with the diplomatic corps in Korea on a 24-hour basis, according to the Foreign Ministry.