If you don’t get angry…
On Dec. 24, Koreans had to suffer a gray Christmas Eve. Yellow and ultrafine dust alerts and guidelines were issued, and the entire country was cloaked in a murky smog from China. My coworker constantly coughed, and his doctor told him that ultrafine dust was the culprit.
Koreans must have no guts. When the fatal air pollutants from China strike the Korean Peninsula, no one seems to care. The government, politicians and even environmental groups fail to make proper protest to China. We cannot allow the pollutants coming from the other side of the sea ruin our environment. We must demand someone take responsibility.
In the 1930s, a smelter in Canada on the border produced sulfur dioxide, which affected apple farms in the U.S. state of Washington. The U.S. government helped the farmers to get $420,000 in compensation from Canada.
In the 1960s, France conducted nuclear tests in the South Pacific, and New Zealand and Australia, which are 4,200 kilometers (2,610 miles) and 6,000 kilometers from the testing site, respectively, took the case to the International Court of Justice and frustrated further testing. While France argued that there was no evidence of nuclear fallout spreading that far, the argument was rejected.
The smog and ultrafine dust from China are especially dangerous to infants and children. If it gets in the lungs of children and causes inflammation, it could lead to serious illnesses. While yellow dust is a natural phenomenon, smog is clearly artificial pollution, and the Chinese government is responsible.
While there is no agreement between Korea and China specifically on transborder pollution damage, there are customary international laws. One of them is the no-harm rule in the Stockholm Declaration in 1972. It states that all countries need to do their best not to cause environmental harm on their neighbors.
Moreover, the International Law Commission under the United Nations declared that all countries are responsible for providing accurate environmental information such as air pollution situation to the neighbors. It is not right for China not to disclose how serious the smog is.
China may claim that there is no proof that smog is deadly. But harming the health of the public is a crime more serious than taking a life. If you don’t get angry when you should be, you won’t get the respect.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 28, Page 35
by NAM JEONG-HO