Paper shredder review photo misleadingly linked to probe into troubled South Korea jamboree

A South Korean blogger says it is "baffling" that a photo she took for a paper shredder product review has been used in unrelated social media posts that claim officials being investigated over the troubled World Scout Jamboree shredded a decades' worth of documents. Commenters appeared to be misled into thinking the photo showed evidence of a coverup, but her product review photo was posted years before the jamboree.

"North Jeolla province shredded 10-years' worth of documents related to the Jamboree," reads the Korean-language caption on the image -- of a hand holding a clump of shredded paper -- shared on Facebook on August 12.

"Several news organisations have approached me about the source of this post," text below the image adds.

"They should go out and gather the information on their own, and not ask about the source, which was obtained in the name of public interest."

Local media reported that South Korea's state audit agency had started a probe into the problem-plagued World Scout Jamboree, including how funds were allocated (archived link).

The quadrennial event gathered 43,000 scouts in North Jeolla province in early August 2023, but an unprecedented heatwave prompted mass illnesses, US and UK contingents left early amid reports of dire campsite conditions, and a tropical storm finally forced a full evacuation.

The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper has reported that some of the funds were used by civil servants for "business trips" that had little to do with hosting the scouts.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, captured on August 22, 2023

The image was also shared on Facebook here, here, here and here, and comments on the posts indicate many users believed the photo showed the supposedly shredded documents.

"The event officially ended yesterday, but they sure were fast in getting rid of the evidence," one wrote.

Another said: "Wonder who took this photo; must have been a whistleblower in the provincial government."

While AFP cannot verify whether officials did shred 10 years' worth of documents related to the jamboree, the image used in the posts is unrelated to the ill-fated jamboree or any investigation.

Paper shredder review

Through a reverse image search on Google, AFP found the same image was published in a Naver Blog post on November 26, 2018 -- more than four years before the jamboree (archived link).

The post features several other pictures and videos of a person using a machine to shred multiple sheets of paper and examining the shredded remnants.

"I work from home and handle a lot of documents. As these documents contain personal information related to my work I can't just throw them away, so I used to store the papers in many boxes," the post reads.

"The amount wasn't enough to hire a shredding company, so I ended up buying the Fellowes document shredder," the post continues.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image used in one of the misleading posts (left) and the corresponding photo published in the 2018 blog post (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image used in the misleading posts (left) and the photo published in the 2018 blog post (right)

The image used in the misleading posts has also been cropped to remove a watermark seen in the photo's upper-right corner.

The blog's owner describes herself as a Seoul-based digital creator (archived link). Her posts include reviews of products such as dishwasher fluid and vacuum cleaners (archived link).

Her YouTube and Instagram accounts also include videos and photos of product reviews (archived links here and here).

Nothing in this post or in any of the user's other blog posts indicates she is affiliated with the jamboree or local or provincial governments.

Contacted by AFP, she said the use of her photo in the misleading posts is "baffling" and her photo is "completely unrelated" to the jamboree.

"The documents are just related to my personal work that I shredded in November 2018," she said on August 22.

AFP previously debunked another misleading claim related to the World Scout Jamboree here.

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