Armed With NASA Data, South Korea Confronts Its Choking Smog

South Korea has a misfortune atmosphere wickedness among a grown nations in a a Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

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Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea has a misfortune atmosphere wickedness among a grown nations in a a Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea faces a ongoing unwashed atmosphere problem that creates it one of a many soiled countries in a world. It’s common to hear that adjacent China is to blame, though a corner investigate by NASA and a Korean supervision has found there’s a lot South Korea can do on a possess to cut a smog.

On many days of a year, a thick industrial mist blankets a collateral city of Seoul, where some 25 million people live in a civil area. The health effects can be seen in hospitals, with patients angry of wheezing and coughing that won’t go away.


Dr. Kim Sang-heon, who practices inner medicine during Hanyang University Medical Center, says given there’s a transparent couple between wickedness and respiratory illnesses, he preaches fog deterrence to his patients.

“I customarily contend stay home if they hear it is high,” Kim says.

High concentrations in a atmosphere of PM 2.5 — excellent particulate matter that can get low in your lungs — are a comparatively common occurrence in Seoul. A ranking expelled in Feb shows South Korea had a second misfortune atmosphere peculiarity of all modernized nations in a Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with usually Turkey faring worse. South Korea’s atmosphere is some-more than twice as soiled as a other nations’ average.

Seoul’s wickedness levels on some days opposition those of Shanghai and Beijing, vital Chinese cities whose wickedness problems are well-documented. In 2016, Seoul’s atmosphere peculiarity index was deliberate diseased for supportive populations (such as children, a aged and those with existent respiratory conditions) on 78 days.

By comparison, a Los Angeles metro area, that had some of a United States’ top normal PM 2.5 readings in 2016, gifted usually dual such days, according to an NPR research of information expelled by a Seoul city supervision and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Beijing, by contrast, gifted normal atmosphere peculiarity index levels that were diseased for supportive populations, or even some-more hazardous, during 231 days final year.


Shanghai reached those levels 201 times, according to information collected by a State Department during a embassies and consulates in those cities.

Although China is an easy aim for blame, as a industrial dirt does deposit opposite borders, South Korea wanted to know some-more about a possess wickedness causes.


So a supervision teamed adult with NASA final year for a many desirous sampling and investigate of Korean atmosphere peculiarity to date.

Last year, NASA flew planes during several altitudes above a peninsula, chasing dirt for a month.

This summer, NASA scientists returned to Seoul to start pity rough results.

“We can’t fly over China. So this is a approach to representation China and representation Korea, and a Koreans are really meddlesome in operative with us,” pronounced Barry Lefer, a NASA scientist and module manager who took partial in a study. The U.S. and Chinese governments are rivals when it comes to many troops and confidence issues, that inhibits flyovers.

The large doubt disturbing South Korea is how many of a wickedness is homegrown contra carried over from adjacent countries. The answer is complicated.

NASA sampled a atmosphere during a time when trans-boundary wickedness was low. It cautions it can usually indication a Korean peninsula’s atmosphere formed on a information collected from a sampling. But a models did indicate to some engaging answers.

“Our end was that a internal emissions are a clever source of ozone and tiny particles,” Lefer said. “The indication pronounced that over half of a atmosphere wickedness is entrance from internal sources and a rest is entrance from other countries.”

Local sources embody car emissions, industrial sites and energy plants. Lefer says news that a infancy of a wickedness here is homegrown is indeed good in a pivotal way.

“You can’t do anything about a trans-boundary pollution, since we can do something about your internal sources,” Lefer says.

Korea's Air Is Dirty, But It's Not All Close-Neighbor China's Fault

The supervision is holding some movement now. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is overseeing a excellent dirt charge force and is shuttering 10 of a country’s oldest and many polluting spark plants. The city of Seoul issues excellent dirt alerts over mobile phones to improved surprise residents of dangerous days.

Kim, a doctor, believes flourishing open recognition of wickedness is effective in improving a air.

“I wish and we design some new change will be given to us,” Kim says.

Armed with some-more information about South Korea’s pollutants, a conflict to quell it can come from a place of knowledge.

Jihye Lee contributed to this story.