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31 July


Experts: fight the dust and not look for the guilty

Blaming China or Korea doesn`t help

Photo: Korea Herald

/NOVOSTIVL/ It has become a habit for many South Koreans to point to China as a thick haze of ultrafine dust descends and chokes the country, as well as to lash out at the Korean government for failing to settle the issue with its giant neighbor. This article appeared in The Korea Herald.

Blaming China for worsening air pollution does not help the country’s fight against ultrafine dust, however, as a large amount of toxic particles are produced at home, according to Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute.

"Blaming China is the easy way out. I agree China bears responsibility, but the case to negotiate with China would be so much stronger if the action at home was strong," he said in an interview with The Korea Herald at the GGGI headquarters in central Seoul.

South Korea has been grappling with massive air pollution especially from winter to spring. It ranks bottom in air quality among 35 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Korean government estimates up to 80 percent of PM2.5 ultrafine dust -- the airborne particles of diameter less than 2.5 micrometers -- in Korea flows here from China when concentrations of PM2.5 are heavy. China denies this.

While it is true China significantly contributes to air pollution here, the neighboring country took “drastic measures” to cut levels of the toxic pollutants, he pointed out, by closing down coal-fired plants and adopting more electric buses. China slashed its levels by almost a third on average over four years, according to a study.

The Korean government takes "emergency reduction measures" -- such as banning old diesel cars from streets -- to cut emissions produced domestically. It also has conducted artificial rain experiments and is seeking to install large air purifiers in cities.

But the measures are only "first baby steps" and "not enough," and there are no “magical solutions,” the Dutch director-general noted, other than rapidly reforming industry heavily reliant on coal and nuclear power.