SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – The news that South Korea had won its bid to host the 2023 World Scout Jamboree over Poland came as a surprise to many who felt the Asian nation had the cards stacked against it.
The dream of hosting the global event began when the current governor of North Jeolla Province, Song Ha Jin, was sworn into office in 2015. Determined to enhance the province’s prestige on an ever bigger stage, Song made the decision to try to bring the World Scout Jamboree – held once every four years – to his province.
The path was not easy, to say the least. First, North Jeolla had to “defeat” its competitor Goseong County of Gangwon Province to take its place as the solo representative of South Korea.
It then went on to face Poland in the final round. Here, the South Korean team had to deal with a number of disadvantages, few that were of its own making.
First, the Polish delegation was backed by former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Wałęsa, who due to his status carried a certain amount of influence among the voters.
Second, the location proposed by the Polish delegation, Gdansk, was already recognized as ground zero for Wałęsa’s labor struggles. In contrast, Saemangeum, though inducted into the Guinness World Records and the proud home of the world’s longest sea wall, has no such history. The only thing that connects politics to the region is the construction of the seawall forming a crucial part of President Noh Tae Woo’s electoral campaign in 1987.
Third, African as well as Central and South American members initially showed a reluctance to support South Korea’s bid, as they feared the distance to East Asia would result in higher costs in terms of airfare and other financial matters.
Fourth, after the internationally publicized impeachment of former President Park, the South Korean delegation had genuine reason to fear that the political scandal had tarnished the country’s image and turned it into an unsuitable host.
Finally, what always looms over any major international event in South Korea is the fear of provocations and violence from the North, especially considering the recent heightened tensions in the Northeast Asian region.
To counter all of the above, the Koreans realized they needed a prolonged strategy if they were to win their bid.
Upon a preliminary assessment that the African and South American member nations were partial to them, the Korean delegation divided into teams with the intent of doing the legwork necessary to win the required votes.
For the next 18 months, the teams traversed the globe. They shook hands with politicians and rights groups and spoke with NGOs and civic organizations to spread the word and create a positive image of South Korea.
The efforts of the delegation were also made possible through the support of the national government. Once taking the position that “hosting the World Scout Jamboree will be difficult”, the government’s attitude made a 180 degree turn when President Moon took a keen interest in the efforts of North Jeolla Province and urged national agencies to aid the province’s cause.
South Korea’ surprising win is both a vindication of the delegation’s tireless efforts and a sign of the country’s rising prestige. With the upcoming Winter Olympics in hand and the World Scout Jamboree on the horizon, the country has much to look forward to as it continues its miraculous climb out of the ashes of foreign occupation and civil war. Amidst rising fear, increasing threats of war and increasing geopolitical tensions, the nation looks towards hope.