News report doctored to show scout calling for S. Korea to be 'nuked' over troubled jamboree

After an extreme heatwave caused hundreds of scouts to fall ill at the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea, social media posts started sharing a doctored image purportedly showing a Norwegian scout saying nuclear bombs should be dropped on the South Korean region hosting the event. The image was taken from a news report whose subtitles had been digitally altered to insert the reference to nukes.

The doctored image, which appears to show a news interview of a young scout by South Korean broadcaster MBC, was shared here on Facebook on August 6, 2023.

The news ticker, purportedly quoting a Norwegian scout named "Aira" reads: "If something bad happens to me, please drop nuclear bombs on all of Jeolla province. Twice on South Jeolla province please."

The claim was shared online as an extreme heatwave engulfed the World Scout Jamboree held in Buan County in North Jeolla province in early August, causing hundreds of scouts to fall ill from heat stroke and generating a massive PR setback for the South Korean government (archived links here and here).

"A summary of the Jamboree incident," the Korean-language image caption says. "A foreign country causes the incident, but it is South Korea that takes the blame."

The post suggests Jeolla province is a foreign country rather than a part of South Korea, implying the entire nation is taking the blame for the failures caused by the province.

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Facebook. Captured August 7, 2023.

The jamboree's organisers said on August 7 the event would end early due to a typhoon warning, after thousands of scouts already pulled out earlier due to the extreme heat (archived link).

However, the South Korean government said the event was "merely relocating due to a natural disaster" and would continue until its official close on August 12, although critics said the new arrangement defeated the point of the jamboree, AFP reported (archived link).

The troubled jamboree spurred online comments against the Jeolla region, frequently the target of discriminatory stereotypes due to the country's long-standing regional political divisions (archived link).

AFP has previously fact-checked multiple false claims disparaging the region and its inhabitants, including here and here.

Comments left on the posts indicated many users were misled to believe the captions in the image were genuine.

"Think about how much suffering she had to endure in order for her to say something like this. Can we still call South Korea a developed country after this?" one wrote.

"Young kids don't lie. What a shame," another said.

The same doctored image was also shared on Facebook here, here and here.

Extreme heat

However, a keyword search on Google using the terms "MBC" and the student's name found the corresponding news report published by the South Korean broadcaster on YouTube on August 2, 2023 (archived link).

The shot that corresponds to the doctored image can be seen in the video's 15-second mark.

The original Korean-language caption is an accurate translation of the scout's English-language response: "It's like a sauna. You're sweating and you're hot but you don't lose the heat in your body because you're so wet already."

Nowhere in the report were nuclear bombs mentioned.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image shared on Facebook (left) and the corresponding screenshot from the original MBC report on YouTube (right):

Screenshot comparison of the doctored image shared on Facebook (left) and a corresponding screenshot from the original MBC report posted on YouTube (right)

MBC also embedded the YouTube video of the news broadcast on its official website with a transcript, which shows the Norwegian scout talking about the heat at the camp (archived link).

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