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.

Yellow Dust Phenomenon Has Been Happening on the Korean Peninsula for Centuries

A ROK Drop favorite Robert Neff has an published in the Korea Times that explains how the yellow dust problem that has been plaguing Korea has actually been worse in centuries past than what has been seen recently:

Namdaemun circa 1911.

For the past several days, the air quality in Korea has been horrible _ filled with dust and pollution. Many blame desertification in China due to its rapid industrialization but this phenomenon is not new _ it is one that has plagued the Korean Peninsula for hundreds of years.

Historical records from the Three Kingdoms period indicate dust storms occurred at least as far back as 174 A.D. One powerful dust storm in the early sixth century left the capital of Baekje shrouded in darkness as if it were night and a couple of decades later, Silla suffered one that lasted for five days. Perhaps the strangest of these weather phenomena took place in 644 when a red-tinged snow fell in Pyongyang.

The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty provide even more examples.

In November 1412, a horrendous dust storm mixed with fog blanketed the land. The visibility was so bad that people could not even see the person standing in front of them and the sudden spring-like weather melted the ice on the rivers.  [Korea Times]

Mr. Neff provides more examples of the bizarre weather created by the yellow dust at the link.  What I found of interest was that if this same bizarre weather happened today people would be claiming it is because of global warming.

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.

Worsening Yellow Dust Causes Surge in Home Air Purifiers in Korea

The yellow dust is getting so bad in Korea that in the future everyone may need these air purifiers in their homes as a must have appliance:

The ever-dirtier air in Korea has sparked consumer interest in air purifiers for the home and local electronics companies are cranking out new models, including ones that use the Internet of Things technology.

The number of air purifiers sold last year was one million units compared to 900,000 in 2015 and 500,000 in 2014. In money terms, sales of air purifiers amounted to 1 trillion won ($894.2 million) last year – which may grow to 1.5 trillion won this year, according to industry insiders.

Discount chain E-Mart reported a 60.8 percent increase year on year in air purifier sales between March 1 and 23. Electronics retailers Lotte Hi-Mart said its air purifier sales rose 30 percent year on year from March 1 through 22.

“With the influx of Chinese smog and lack of rain, the number of days with excessive fine dust was particularly high this year,” said Cho Yong-wook, E-Mart’s buyer for electronics. “As a consequence, we’re seeing a sharp increase in customers shopping for air purifiers.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Studies Says Yellow Dust Kills Over 30,000 People Every Year in Korea and Japan

The yellow dust this year has been absolutely horrible in Korea and it seems to get worse every year:

Image from the Korea Herald.

Korean consumers’ concern about fine dust, which is believed to come from China, seems to be legitimate as confirmed by a report published Thursday in the peer-reviewed international journal Nature.

About 30,900 people in Korea and Japan die prematurely every year due to fine dust from China, according to the study jointly conducted by researchers in China’s Tsinghua and Peking universities, the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Irvine.

Analyzing the number of early deaths from heart, lung and blood vessel-related diseases and the density and movement of fine dust, the researchers found out that 411,100 people worldwide died prematurely due to fine dust from outside their countries.

The researchers especially pointed out that China, as the largest producer of fine dust particles, causes the greatest number of deaths because of the high population density of itself and its neighbors.

“It costs less to manufacture goods in places like China and Southeast Asia, mostly because those places have cheaper labor than the West,” Steven Davis, co-author of the paper, said. “But they also tend to have less stringent environmental protections.”  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

NASA Scientists Conduct Air Pollution Study Over Seoul

It should be interesting to see what comes out of this study from NASA where they are trying to determine how much of the pollution over Seoul is produced domestically compared to what blows in from China:

 The cockpit warning blared insistently as the plane spiraled downward to 500 feet above Seoul: “Too low, too low, terrain. Pull up, pull up, pull up.”

The pilots ignored the automated voice despite a nervous glance from a visiting reporter. Their mission was to take the DC-8 as low or as high as the NASA scientists working in the back required.

The flight was part of a six-week joint Korea-U.S. air-quality field study — known as KORUS-AQ — which officially kicked off on April 29. The timing coincided with the so-called yellow dust season that sees fine particulate matter swept into the air from neighboring China’s Gobi Desert.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the above link as well as more about Korea’s yellow dust problem at this link.