Toxic Haze from China
Toxic Haze from China
  • Reporter Chae Seung-hyun
  • 승인 2019.02.11 22:43
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Recently, high concentrations of fine dust, i.e. toxic haze, are causing high alerts. Fine dust is a particle smaller than 10 micrometers and larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to such particles is reported to be linked to occurrence of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and to increase the death rate. Ultrafine dusts, that are the cause of current issues, in particular poses a big threat.
It is widely known and believed between the general population that about 30~50% of the fine dust comes from China. This belief, fact is also announced by the Ministry of Environment. However, China has officially expressed its position on this matter by saying “In recent cases, Seoul’s air pollutants are mostly self-emissions.”, and has rebutted responsibility for South Korea’s fine dust problem.
This statement from China differs from researches done on fine dust concentrations. One prime example is the National Institute of Environmental Research’s report on fine dust. A joint research between Korea, China, and Japan made in 2013, analyzed the domestic fine dust. According to the said research, 46% of the fine dust particles were self-generated, 41% was from China, and 13% from other causes like North Korea.
In a more current research, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Institute of Jakarta, together with the U.N. Global Pulse, announced the results of its analysis on the prediction of fine dust in North East Asia. According to the analysis, South Korea’s fine dust levels on the west coast also increase when China’s fine dust concentrations is high and the west wind blows. Another proof that considerable amount of fine dust is derived from China.
South Korea’s Ministry of Environment and China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment met from January 20th to 24th to discuss the issue. However, China stressed the fact that fine dust emissions was reduced by 40% over the past 5 years and that Korea’s fine dust problem is not necessarily due to China. In the end, the meeting resulted in no advancement on how to reduce the fine dust itself.
The meeting wasn’t a total failure as one advancement in the matter was made, an agreement to establish an early warning system for fine dust. China’s latest long-term and short-term forecast data will be shared in real time to improve accuracy of fine dust forecast and to issue a warning in advance two to three days before fine dust hits Korea. 
On January 25th, an experiment was conducted to create artificial rain on the West Sea to prevent fine dust coming from China. Artificial rain to solve fine dust is sometimes used in foreign countries, but it has never been tried because it does not suit the domestic situation. High concentrations of fine dust usually occur when the wind is still and clear. Artificial rain is made by dropping iodine from the air and collected surrounding clouds. Which means it can’t be implemented in clear weather. It is still ways away from being an effective solution.

Toxic haze over the Seoul skyline
Toxic haze over the Seoul skyline