Go to contents

How bureaucracy created the Jamboree mess

Posted August. 31, 2023 08:08,   

Updated August. 31, 2023 08:08


The World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum closed on Aug. 11 after many tumultuous events. In the sweltering heat, 35,000 youth from around 150 countries had to undergo a “survival game” before the event was eventually suspended. A white paper needed to be put together to prevent mistakes from being repeated. The Dong-A Ilbo interviewed previous/current owners of related government authorities who prepared and ran the event. Contrary to expectations, however, no one reflected on how the event was run, and thus the white paper could not be published.

Ruling and opposition parties blamed each other. The ruling party argued that Jeolla province and the previous administration had taken advantage of the Jamboree event to develop Saemangeum, while the opposition party blamed the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the government for inadequate preparations. Let’s take a hard look. Can we blame unclean bathrooms for waiving feasibility studies for the new airport planned to be built on Saemangeum? Was the Ministry of Gender Equality given the hot potato that no one wanted because it was destined to be scrapped? The more the disputes grow, the farther they become from the heart of the issue.

We asked the organization committee, execution committee, and the Korea Scout Association about what they saw as the cause of mis-preparations. They were quick to blame each other for the same reason: Government workers did not do their job.

The Jamboree event is viewed as a “government-made” disaster. Those that your reporter spoke to said that “the organization committee acted very hostile when they were asked to resolve issues on-site.” Other comments included “extreme conflict between the two heads of the committee who represented previous and incumbent governments” and “no communication between the Korea Scout Association, North Jeolla Province, and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.”

“I didn’t have any clue on how rigid government organizations were. No one answered responsibly when we needed to deal with the site situation right away,” said a doctor who volunteered at the event. “Bathroom hygiene issues are not a complex policy issue, nor do they require huge budgets,” said Rep. Lee Won-taek of the Democratic Party.

The event was dominated by the central and local governments taking a bigger presence than the Korea Scout Association, the private sector. The Jamboree is held to help youth grow as global citizens. Creativity and autonomy from the private sector are encouraged with minimal support from the government.

However, the organizing committee was overly large, consisting of three central government ministries: the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, and the Ministry of Culture. The execution committee was separately formed by North Jeolla Province. Political intentions, coupled with lax government on-lookers, resulted in the Jamboree nightmare,

According to recently published meeting notes by the Korea Scout Association, Germany had pointed out that the opening ceremony had caused risk due to failure in multiple crowd management, instructing to withdraw from the event. The Minister of Gender Equality promised to assign 400 safety guards at the concert on Aug. 6, to which Portugal responded by saying, “It’s important to do it right, not assign more people.”

Why are government workers so reluctant to take charge and work properly? Prime Minister Han cleaned out the toilets on Aug. 4, the second day of the event. On the same day, President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed to provide air-conditioned buses and refrigerated/frozen food trucks as much as needed. Only then did government employees begin to work, which shows the lack of leadership at the site. The Ministry of Gender Equality was assigned as the main hosting government organization of the event, headed by Minister Kim, who did not provide any responsible explanation of the event.