Seoul Mayor Wants to Ban Cars on Days with Heavy Pollution

Considering that the vast majority of the pollution is coming from China I doubt banning cars will make much of difference while highly inconveniencing the public:

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon announces policies to reduce fine dust at a news conference at Seoul City Hall on Sunday. [YONHAP]

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said Sunday that his government would seek the power to ban vehicles based on license plate number during days with bad air pollution to reduce the number of cars running on city roads.The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to request an amendment to the enforcement ordinance of the Clean Air Conservation Act that will allow city mayors and provincial governors to issue a directive that bans cars with even- or odd-numbered license plate numbers from operating on certain days with bad pollution.

The request will be sent to the Ministry of Environment, which has the authority to amend the enforcement ordinance.

“The ban will, in effect, be carried out by the local governments of Seoul and surrounding areas,” said Lee Byung-chul, head of the Seoul government’s air quality policy team. “It cannot be carried out by Seoul alone. We have yet to determine the exact system of how we would enforce the ban, such as having checkpoints to stop odd- or even-numbered license plates from entering the capital area, or whether to utilize police and CCTV cameras to enforce the ban.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Soil Samples from Yongsan Garrison Show Below Average Pollution Levels

The city’s on-post soil analysis of Yongsan Garrison did not show contamination above safe levels.  This may be an indication that the off-post soil contamination may not be from the base as claimed.  However, the results are not going to matter to South Korean leftists who have been using this issue to create tension in the US-ROK alliance:

Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

The result of Seoul City’s probe into soil and groundwater in areas near a US military base in central Seoul over alleged oil leaks came out Tuesday, showing below average levels of contamination in the samples from six of nine sites around the military base in Yongsan.

In August, the Seoul city government conducted its own survey on soil and water near the US base for possible contamination with toxic chemicals, amid growing calls for the disclosure of pollution levels in the area.

According to the analysis of samples released Tuesday, all six areas had soil and water contamination below average levels, based on the Soil Environment Conservation Act here.

However, two spots, the main post and the transportation office, will be reinvestigated next month, the city said, as samples from there were close to the average level.

Officials said that levels of total petroleum hydrocarbon detected from these sites were close to exceeding the standard level of 500 milligrams per kilogram. The detected amount was 471 milligrams per kilogram.

“Although there were no significant traces of contamination found from the probe this time, we are still concerned about areas where contamination levels were close to the standard, while the source of the pollutants near the US military base remains unknown,” said Kwon Ki-wook, chief of the city’s water circulation safety bureau.   [Korea Herald via reader tip]

You can read more at the link.

Canadian Company to Begin Selling “Jiri Air” Cans to Korean Customers Suffering from Pollution

Is this the future of South Korea with people walking around with air masks because of how bad the pollution is?:

A forest in Hadong

The town of Hadong in southeastern South Korea will sell canned fresh mountain air in a tie-up with a Canadian company amid growing concerns about air pollution, municipality officials said Wednesday.

The municipality said it will hold a ceremony on Friday to mark the dedication of a plant on a site of 99 square meters in the town’s Uisin Village to produce canned air coming from Mount Jiri in the region.

According to them, the can of pure air with the trademark of Jiri Air, which carries eight liters of fresh air from the mountain, will be sold at a price of 15,000 won (around $13) each at drugstores across the country. The amount of the air in one can is equivalent to 160 lungfuls that a customer takes for a second.

Inhaling the air through a built-in mask makes customers feel like they are in a forest of cypresses as it has a cypress aroma.

The air comes from a forest 700 to 800 meters above sea level where no people live.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but if I was going to spend $13 on air I would not buy air from within South Korea where the entire peninsula receives yellow dust of some kind.  This Canadian company could probably sell better air from Canada itself.

Seoul to Offer Free Bus and Subway Fares to Fight Pollution

I predict that this program will make no perceptual difference to the amount of pollution in Seoul because of how much of it comes from China, but it does cause the perception the government is “doing something”:

Seoul will provide free public transportation during commuting hours when the fine dust level goes beyond certain levels starting next month, as part of its efforts to curb air pollution.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Thursday the rush-hour fare exemptions for bus and subway passengers will be introduced to encourage half of commuters driving to work to voluntarily leave their cars at home based on odd-even number plates.

The new program will take effect from July when the daily average density of ultra-fine dust in the capital area goes beyond 50 micrograms and is forecast to be in excess of the level until the next day.

In order to boost citizens’ participation, the city government will provide free bus and subway transport during commuting hours — from the first train or bus to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., though some critics say the measure appears inefficient as the standard is set too high.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Government Report Continues to Target Yongsan Garrison As Source Ground Water Pollution

What would be an interesting piece of information is what is the pollution to the ground water in other areas of Seoul around Yongsan Garrison?  I find it hard to believe that Yongsan is the only place in Seoul with polluted ground water:

Yongsan Garrison

A contaminant detected in groundwater beneath a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in Seoul was above the permissible level, a government report showed Tuesday.

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul, has long been suspected as the source of oil that has contaminated the nearby water and land.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting a purification project since 2001, but petroleum-based contaminants above the standard level have continued to be detected in water near the base.

According to a joint probe conducted by the environment ministry and the USFK in May 2015, 2.440 milligrams per liter of benzene was found at an observation well at the base, which is 162 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter.

Among 14 monitoring wells of 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter, four had benzene levels some 20 to 162 times higher than the standard, the report showed. A total of seven wells showed above standard levels of benzenes.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but this pollution issue has long been one that South Korean leftists have used to stoke anti-US sentiment and the Korean government uses to get additional money out of USFK for clean up expenses which according to the SOFA they don’t have to pay.

We will see how this all plays out just like when the camps in Area 1 closed out back in 2004.

Korean Activist Group Sues Chinese Government Over Yellow Dust Air Pollution

The yellow dust this year in South Korea is as bad as I can remember it ever being and it seems Korean citizens are beginning to take action to do something about it:

Mask-wearing protestors demand the Korean government to come up with measures to reduce air pollution in a rally held in central Seoul on April 2. (Yonhap)

Many believe that while South Korea has had its own air problem, the recent sharp deterioration is mainly due to China, the world’s biggest polluter.

This belief has led to the first civil lawsuit filed by South Korean citizens against the governments of both Korea and China.

Choi Yul, an environmental activist and president of the Korea Green Foundation, and attorney Ahn Kyung-jae filed the suit Wednesday with the Seoul Central District Court, seeking 3 million won ($2,650) each in compensation.

The data on how much of the airborne pollutants in Korea are from China is not seen as reliable.

The Comprehensive Plan on Fine Particulate Matter compiled by several government bodies put the figure at 30-50 percent.

Such figures are estimated using data from Baengnyeongdo, a remote western island.

However, a report from the Munhwa Ilbo uncovered that the decimal point on the published data data collected at Baengnyeongdo over the past two years had been put in the wrong place giving much lower readings than was the case. Officials say they used the correct data in their calculations, and had therefore not underestimated China’s influence,  but are coy about releasing the data.

A study leaked from the Ministry of Environment estimated that 86 percent of ultrafine dust particles in Seoul and its surrounding cities on March 21, when the entire country was choked with high dust concentrations, was of Chinese origin.

The ministry confirmed that figure, but has been reluctant to reveal more data on the China factor, claiming a significant portion of the pollutants originate here.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link, but the Seoul city government did recently release statistics that showed 55% of the air pollution in Seoul was coming from China.  The ROK can take measures to reduce pollution domestically, but ultimately it will not matter until they get the Chinese government to do something on their end.  Good luck with that.

China Causes Approximately 55% of Seoul’s Air Pollution

It has seemed to me that the yellow dust pollution from China has gotten worse every year and this study now confirms that it in fact has:

Seoul’s government is trying its best to counter the gunk in the city’s air.

But it admitted Thursday that sources of pollution from outside Korea, including fine particle pollution from China, have increased in the past few years.

“According to our research conducted in 2011 and 2016, Seoul’s contribution to pollution grew from 21 percent in 2011 to 22 percent in 2016,” said Hwang Bo-yeon, head of the Climate and Environment Headquarters of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. “But the contribution to air pollution by international factors, including fine dust from China, grew from 49 percent to 55 percent in the same period.

“The city will do all it can, including increasing city-to-city meetings with Beijing to address the problem together.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Pollutants Continued to Be Found at Subway Station Near Yongsan Garrison

This issue of pollutants found at a Seoul subway station has been going on for years and it is amazing that no one has yet to figure out where it is coming from:

The Seoul city government said Monday that contaminants detected in underground water tables near a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in the capital city were 500 times higher than normal standards.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said an average of 0.532 milligrams per liter of benzene was found around Noksapyeong Station, located near the U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul in 2016. The base has long been suspected as the source of oil leaks that have polluted both water and land.

The figure went as high as 8.811 milligrams per liter, which is some 587 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter, it said.

The total amount of petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) found near Camp Kim, within Yongsan Garrison, was 20.4 milligrams per liter on average and reached up to 768.7, which is some 512 times higher than the standard of 1.5 milligrams per liter, according to the city government.

Municipal authorities have been conducting a water table purification project since 2003, but petroleum-based contaminants have still been detected in water near the U.S. base, it said.

“Considering that the base will be returned (to South Korea) at the end of 2017, we need to establish plans on how we will clean up the pollutants,” the city government said in a press release. “But at the moment, we are not even fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the pollution.” [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.