Air pollution level in Korea soars


Breaking the streak of clear days, on Nov. 19, fine dust plagued South Korea. For the first time in six months, the government issued fine dust and microfine dust committees for Seoul and the Gyeonggi province. 


The nation categorizes air quality in terms of fine dust levels in a four-level system: good, average, bad, and very bad. The past week, air quality remained “bad” in some areas. 


Many citizens were quick to blame the surge in microparticle levels on China’s increased consumption of fossil fuels. However, statistically speaking, according to a 2019 study, China’s influence on South Korea’s air quality was relatively little considering that Korea’s poor air quality is approximately 32 percent due to China and 51 percent due to Korea. On top of that, a government official recently reported that a high concentration is not solely attributable to China. 


“I believe that Korea’s poor air quality is definitely due to China,” Aidan Park (12), a student at SIS, said. “As it was evident during the early days of COVID-19, when Chinese factories shut down, the air quality improved compared to days before the outbreak.”


“Of course, we can not solely blame China. However, they should be held more accountable and take more responsibility.”


While the cause of these microparticles remains unsettled, the government is taking measures to reduce carbon emissions especially during the notoriously dirty months from December to March. The initiative includes limiting Euro 5 vehicles on the road in densely populated areas such as Seoul, Busan, and the Gyeonggi province and paying visits to and monitoring companies that utilize coal-fired power plants. 


“Coming from South Africa and living in Cape Town I can definitely say that I took good air quality for granted,” Carly Wessels, aquatics coach at SIS, said. “Since living in Korea I have had to swap some outdoor runs for treadmill runs, but it is definitely not the same. I know I am missing out on the integral feeling of getting outside into fresh air, seeing things and people and the whole sense of adventure, which is one of the main reasons why I run.”


“It affected my relationship with exercise very negatively as it no longer became an outlet for stress but something that caused me more anxiety, as I was only concerned with numbers (pace, distance, calories burned). So far I have been very conscious of not getting into this same mindset, so I try to make sure whenever the air quality is good, that I take advantage and get outside to walk, run or cycle for at least 45 minutes.”