Scouts fill Jamboree concert venue with excitement despite inclement weather
"Singin' in the Rain" (1952) came to life on Friday at the Seoul World Cup Stadium as giddy scouts sang their way into the stadium to attend the "K-pop Super Live" concert in western Seoul.
"We will, we will rock you," chanted a group of scouts trotting toward the stadium gate, as another group of scouts shouted "Annyeong-haseyo" to passersby and reporters standing outside the stadium.
It was drizzling in Seoul at around 3 p.m. as rain from Typhoon Khanun lingered over the city. But participants of the 25th World Scout Jamboree were in high spirits as they approached the stadium in orderly queues guided by the police and on-site staff to attend the closing ceremony of the 25th World Scout Jamboree set to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Scouts excitedly shared greeting remarks with representatives from civil organizations and regional government officials present at the scene to welcome the scouts to the concert venue.
Safety comes first
Buses carrying scouts started driving down the police-controlled roads at 2 p.m. to unload scouts at the front of the gate and designated parking lots. The police controlled traffic at nearby crosswalks and crossroads, and security around the stadium's gates was tightened.
The stadium had been filled by police officers patrolling the grounds with armored cars parked in the corner before the arrival of the scouts. Loud music of K-pop artists was playing in the background, filling the damp and tense sports stadium readying itself to receive 40,000 scout members for tonight's upcoming K-pop concert.
The government had stressed its aim to maintain order at the venue after suffering a painful loss in last year's Itaewon tragedy and the series of criticisms regarding the lackluster World Scout Jamboree at the Saemangeum site in Buan County, North Jeolla.
Some 600 police officers and 200 firefighters were dispatched to the site to ensure safety while the government reiterated multiple times that all related ministries, police and fire department were working to prevent any possibility of an accident.
Joy and order
Upon arriving through different gates of the stadium, each team of scouts waited patiently as its turn came to enter the stadium one group at a time. No complaints came from the scouts, instead only excited chants and songs anticipating a night filled with entertainment and joy.
More than 1,000 buses were mobilized to transport Jamboree attendees through different routes at different times to minimize confusion within the stadium. Roads leading up to the World Cup Stadium interchange from the Guryong interchange were sealed off starting at 2 p.m. A volunteer worker recruited by the government accompanied each bus.
"We are keeping a close eye on personnel control, how the command center is being run, emergency plans and more," Culture Ministry spokesperson, Kang Jung-won, said.
"We aim to minimize the citizens' inconveniences as we limit the roads nearby the stadium due to the large number of people that will be gathering in the scene today."
Too much fuss?
While it's safe to say that the fuss paid off at the stadium, the event had its share of complaints from on-site staff.
"We were just told last night to come here in the afternoon and welcome the arriving scouts, to wave hello and monitor their safety in the roads," said a pair of public servants from a district office in western Seoul, on condition of anonymity.
Entertainment agencies also complain about the rushed event that had no respect for K-pop artists' busy schedules that have to be planned out to the smallest details. A performance involves not only the artists but also makeup artists, stylists and technicians, who cost hundreds of millions of won to mobilize for each occasion.
The government has been stressing that K-pop companies all took part "voluntarily," but that doesn't mean that everything is fair and well, industry insiders say.
"We have never done anything so hastily like this, and we would never have if it wasn't a government event," an insider at a K-pop agency said on condition of anonymity. "We're not even sure how we're going to be reimbursed for the cost."
Salvaging an anticlimax
The K-pop concert is aimed at making up for the slew of criticisms the 25th World Scout Jamboree has been receiving since day one of the event on Aug. 1 up until today.
A lack of preparation for the heat wave and appalling maintenance was reported throughout the scouts' stay at the Saemangeum site, although differing opinions came from people because reporters were banned from interviewing individual members and could only gather information scattered in different places.
"We're told that the Jamboree could have been better in several ways, including food, hygiene and heat, especially considering the fact that the organizing committee had years to prepare for the event," said Lutz, father of a 20-year-old unit leader and a 14-year-old scout from Hamburg, Germany, who was waiting with his wife Viola for the bus carrying their sons to enter the stadium's outdoor parking lot on Friday afternoon.
"Scouts could have had a better time down in Saemangeum if the preparations weren't made at the last minute, but what is perfect in this world?" he added.
Lutz and Viola toured around Korea, from Seoul to Sokcho in Gangwon, to Busan, to Jeonju in North Jeolla and back to Seoul, while their sons were in Saemangeum and Myongji University, where some of the German scouts stayed in the past couple of days.
Scouts were moved from the Saemangeum region to the country's northern parts due to safety concerns regarding Typhoon Khanun on Tuesday. They have been enjoying different entertainment programs provided by the government since.
The Jamboree's closing ceremony will take place for 30 minutes starting at 5:30 p.m., attended by: Prime Minister Han Duk-soo; Ahmad Alhendawi, secretary general of the World Organization of the Scout Movement; Andy Chapman, chair of the World Scout Committee; honorary chair Ban Ki-moon; organizers of the Jamboree and scout members.
A 7-minute video will start the ceremony with footage taken during the event, summarizing the ordeals the scouts pushed through since the start of the Jamboree. After reciting the Scout Oath, Korean scouts will hand over the World Scout Committee flag to attendants from Poland, the host country for the next Jamboree.
The ceremony will end with a farewell speech from Alhendawi and closing remarks by Han.
Attendants will be served a packaged dinner during the break between the closing ceremony and the concert. A total of 47,000 meals have been prepared for the scouts, including 7,000 Halal meals and 5,000 vegan meals.
Enjoy the night
The lineup of 19 K-pop acts set to perform at tonight's "K-pop Super Live" concert includes IVE, NewJeans, NCT Dream, ITZY, Mamamoo, The Boyz, Shownu & Hyungwon, fromis_9, ZeroBaseOne, P1Harmony, KARD, The New Six, ATBO, xikers, Holybang and Libelante, as well as singers Kang Daniel, Kwon Eun-bi and Jo Yuri.
Actor Gong Myoung, ITZY's Yuna and NewJeans's Hyein will be the event's hosts.
A total of 43,000 seats have been prepared — 37,000 regular seats and 6,000 ground seats near the stage. The seating arrangement has been made taking into account the attendees' transportation routes.
Attendees will be given a gift bag prepared by the Culture Ministry, HYBE and Kakao Entertainment, containing light sticks, Kakao Friends merchandise and BTS photocards.
Fireworks and drone shows will take place after the concert for scouts as they exit the stadium at different times for traffic. Scouts who have been accommodated in nearby Seoul areas will take the subway.
The government expects it to take three hours for all scout members to exit the stadium. The Korean government will cover expenses up until Friday's accommodations and Saturday's breakfast. Scouts are free to stay further, but the government will not cover the cost.
BY YOON SO-YEON, SOHN DONG-JOO [email@example.com]