World Scout Jamboree disaster blamed on South Korean government

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - SEOUL — The South Korean government has denied being responsible for the disastrous World Scout Jamboree last year after being held to blame by investigators.

Tens of thousands were evacuated from the campsite last year due to problems with the food and medical facilities.

Independent findings have been critical of the Korean Scout Association and the government, which it said side-lined the scout group and took the lead role in organizing the event.

But the government has denied this.

In a statement, it said it had only played a supporting role to the Korean Scout Association.

"It is not true at all that the direct cause of the event's failure is the government's involvement," it said.

Described as the world's largest youth camp, the jamboree — or festival — gathers young scouts from around the world every four years. The Jamboree held during the height of summer last August was riddled with problems from the start.

Children fainted in the 40C heat, without enough food to eat.

The report released by the independent panel said medical facilities were inadequate with some clinics not hooked up to electricity. There was also a shortage of basic supplies, such as saline solution to keep people hydrated.

The UK contingent withdrew more than 4,500 child scouts due to the problems with many other countries following suit.

In its scathing report, investigators accused the South Korean government of deliberately misleading international and national scout organizations, over the state of the preparations.

"In terms of safety, security, safeguarding of young people, medical support, food and dietary requirements, sanitation and hygiene... there were significant challenges and deficiencies, as well as a failure to consistently deliver core services — at the standard promised," the report read.

It also said the Korean government becoming the "de facto organizer" had exacerbated the event's problems and caused several "structural and co-ordination complications".

The independent report also accuses the Korean government of hindering the review into the jamboree, by not providing information to the investigators.

"Regrettably, government officials were unable to provide much-needed information, especially on the financial statements relating to the event", it said.

But the government has refuted this claim. It said it did not receive a request for information while the World Scout Organization was preparing its report. — BBC

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