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Yoon orders unlimited air-conditioned buses for Jamboree participants

By Choi Si-young

Published : Aug. 4, 2023 - 17:36

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Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (center in white) at the World Scout Jamboree in North Jeolla Province on Friday. (Yonhap) Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (center in white) at the World Scout Jamboree in North Jeolla Province on Friday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the government to provide an unlimited number of air-conditioned buses and refrigerator trucks to protect participants of the World Scout Jamboree suffering from the heat wave. He also approved using the government’s reserve funds to provide aid for the event, Yoon’s office said Friday.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo chaired an unscheduled Cabinet meeting at Yoon’s request to discuss the budget for the annual Jamboree, which kicked off Wednesday in North Jeolla Province, drawing more than 43,000 teenagers from 158 countries.

Officials said at least 600 people were treated for heat exhaustion and other heat-related symptoms as of Thursday.

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, a member of the Jamboree’s organizing committee, issued an emergency directive for mobile hospitals, ambulances and air-conditioning units. The previous day, the ministry raised its heat warning to the highest level for the first time in years.

Jamboree participants and their family members have voiced concerns over the extreme weather, with some of them complaining in online posts.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented heat wave, but this can’t be an excuse. We will use every resource to make sure that the scouts finish what they have come for without any safety issues,” Han said, adding that Yoon is fully briefed on the issue.

The South Korean leader, away on vacation, had instructed officials to provide air-conditioned buses and trucks carrying cold water for the giant camp, hours ahead of the Cabinet meeting.

“We need better food right away and interagency support to deal with problems at the camp,” Yoon was quoted as saying by his office during a phone conversation with Prime Minister Han and Interior Minister Lee.

Safety concerns have already prompted organizers to reduce outdoor activities at the camp, a gathering that takes place every four years in different locations around the world. Korea spent six years preparing for the in-person gathering at a campsite built on land reclaimed from the sea.

Previously organizers brushed off overall health worries over the treeless area lacking shelter from the heat, saying no other options were viable. A sudden cancellation could lead to greater panic, they said.

“The camp participants came from afar, and have not yet adjusted to the local weather,” Choi Chang-haeng, secretary-general of the Jamboree’s organizing committee, said at a press briefing.