The hermit can’t sleepWhen one travels on the bus the radio always seems to be loud. In subways, passengers talk incessantly on their cell phones. Car drivers blow their horns and loud noises come from construction sites. This used to be called “the hermit kingdom,” but these days any self-respecting recluse would flee the country for somewhere with peace and quiet. The noise makes everybody feel tired. The National Environmental Dispute Resolution Commission handled 165 cases last year. Among them, disputes about noise and vibration topped the list, with 150 cases. In big cities like Seoul, noise in residential areas exceeds legal limits day and night.
The Ministry of Environment assessed noise in 29 cities across the country. The report shows that the number of cities where noise exceeded limits in daytime were 22, for nighttime, 27. The report was not conducted in commercial or industrial areas, but in schools, hospitals, parks and residential areas where some measure of quiet should reign.
It doesn’t matter where you live. Across the nation it has become hard to work or to sleep in a quiet atmosphere. At times it is nearly impossible not to make noise. However, we believe that the country has become excessively noisy because people are insensitive about noise and have little awareness of the issue.
That’s why it is good news that a couple of local governments and local residents have started to reduce noise. The office of Seongbuk district, Seoul, established ordinances to lower noise in daily life in June 2003. A team whose task is to manage noise in the office works together with a patrol team consisting of local residents.
They have the authority to impose sanctions on construction sites where noise rises above 75 decibels, the benchmark for daytime, and they say the measure has been effective. The office of Gwanak district followed Seongbuk’s example and created similar ordinances. Nowon and Jongno districts in Seoul, Seongnam in Gyeonggi province, Dalseo district in Daegu and Seo district in Incheon are all looking at noise-abatement regulations. As many arguments erupt among neighbors over barking dogs, the Guro district office has prepared devices to stop dogs from barking and leased them to local residents.
Cheongju city, North Chungcheong province is taking steps to address the core of the problem. The city office completed a map of noise last year. It plans to use it in future when drawing up measures to prevent noise.
It is common sense that noise is harmful. The administration and local governments must be proactive and seek to reduce noise. However, that will be of no use if people have little awareness of a problem that can only get worse. The morning calm has already gone, and if we don’t act soon this will become the land of constant cacophony.