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Afraid to breathe the polluted air due to fine dust particles from China

Afraid to breathe the polluted air due to fine dust particles from China

Posted March. 30, 2017 07:06,   

Updated March. 30, 2017 07:12


Many areas in South Korea were covered by deadly fine dust particles for five days since March 17. The Seoul metropolitan area was particularly more polluted by thick fine dust. The concentration of tiny dust particles in the Seoul metropolitan area on the weekend of March 18 and 19 was slightly below the level to implement the government’s emergency measures for reduction in pollutants. Such measures, including the two-day alternative driving and temporary suspension of construction work, are to be introduced if the concentration of pollutants reaches a certain point.

However, it remains doubtful whether the government’s emergency measures will make a significant improvement in dealing with the polluted air because it has been told that about 60 percent, or as much as 90 percent, of dust particles in March were arrived from foreign countries, mostly China.

According to the government’s analysis on fine dust samples collected in the Seoul metropolitan area from March 17 to 21, more than 60 percent of dust particles are attributable to foreign sources. Furthermore, according to the Ministry of Environment’s impact analysis on fine dust particles from foreign countries from March 17 to 21, foreign fine dust particles contributed to 62 to 80 percent of fine dust particles smaller than 10 microns (PM10) in the Seoul metropolitan area. Their contribution to ultra-fine dust particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which are thought to be more deadly, reached 52 percent and peaked 86 percent on March 21.

“North Korea and other regions might have some contributions, but China is the main culprit,” the ministry said. China’s contributions to the concentration of fine dust particles in South Korea usually hover around 30 to 50 percent and soar to 60 to 80 percent in the worst days. However, it surpassed 80 percent twice from March 17 to 21, recording 84 percent and 86 percent on March 17 and 21, respectively.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Research’s report in 2013, the biggest local contributing factor to fine dust particles in the Seoul metropolitan area was exhaust gas by diesel cars, taking six percent. That says China is causing 10 times more fine dust particles than any other local sources in South Korea.

It has been reported that a multilateral cooperative framework will be launched by South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, North Korea and Mongol next year. As a part of efforts to support the United Nation’s North-East Asian Subregional Programme for Environmental Cooperation, the newly introduced framework will focus on reduction in fine dust particles and ozone. This framework will be the biggest cooperative network in Northeast Asia to tackle atmospheric pollution.

Mee-Jee Lee image@donga.com