Ministries lay out new series of noise regulations

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Ministries lay out new series of noise regulations

The government announced a new set of regulations regarding noise standards among floors in mass housing at a time when a rash of neighborly clashes, ranging from fistfights to gruesome homicides, have run rampant in apartment complexes nationwide.

Jointly designed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Environment, the rules define the type of noise among floors and whether those sounds can be categorized as a noise worth confronting or diminishing.

“The regulations don’t prescribe rules of punishment,” an official from the Ministry of Environment said last week. “It’s only a legitimate criterion that interested parties in a noise conflict can refer to when trying to make peace.”

The guidelines will go through pre-legislative scrutiny until May 1, whereby officials will collect feedback from the public on the measure, after which it will be enforced starting May 14.

The Environment Ministry defines inter-floor noise as sound pollution in apartments or multiplex houses caused by children running around or roughhousing, loud footsteps, furniture being moved, a toilet flushing, loud music or television.

In the decree, noise pollution is categorized into direct-impact noise and airborne noise. The former refers to noises that occur by a direct clash with the wall or floor, such as sounds made by stomping or door-slamming; the latter refers to indirect sounds delivered through the air, such as those from the television or a piano.

In the case of direct-impact noise, the measure states that the problem can be formally recognized when the average level of sound exceeds 43 decibels for a minute or more in the daytime and 57 decibels at night, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. But residents can still form a case when the sounds levels are below the formally recognized standards.

Airborne noise is acknowledged when the average level of sound over a five-minute period surpasses 45 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night.

A sound of 43 decibels is produced when a child that weighs approximately 28 kilograms (62 pounds) runs around his or her house for about a minute. A 57-decibel sound occurs when that same child jumps from a sofa 50 centimeters (20 inches) high.

When an adult who weighs 78 kilograms (172 pounds) hits his or her heel on the floor, a sound between 26 to 47 decibels is produced. When that same person drags a chair across the room, it produces a sound that is about 40 to 59 decibels.

“An ordinary person will have no problem walking or getting along with their daily life,” said an official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

In a country where more than 70 percent of Koreans live in apartment complexes, the regulations indicate that authorities are finally making efforts to contain rising noise disputes.

Civil sector organizations have consistently urged the government to resolve the noise pollution issue, with local pundits arguing that thin floors are ineffective at minimizing the impact of vibrations and other sounds.

Statistics from the Inter-Floor Noise Neighbor Center, a group affiliated with the Environment Ministry that provides counseling and on-the-spot measuring services in noise disputes, show that registered complaints more than doubled last year from 2012; 15,455 cases were submitted in 2013, and 7,021 cases for the year before.

In some cases, neighborly quarrels have snowballed into physical aggression. Last month, a 34-year-old man in Guro District, southwestern Seoul, identified only as Jang, was apprehended for setting fire to a baby stroller that belonged to his neighbor upstairs. Jang later testified that he was aggravated by his young neighbor’s loud footsteps.

Apartments approved before July 2005, about 75 percent of the total, will have the same noise standards loosely applied with a margin of five decibels.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]



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