Getting facts straight

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Getting facts straight

“It’s from China,” I always hear whenever smog enshrouds the Korean Peninsula, which seems to happen more often nowadays. So I read “If you don’t get angry...” (The Fountain, Dec. 29) with little surprise as lines like “[w]e cannot allow the pollutants coming from the other side of the sea [to] ruin our environment” echoed this faulty claim.

Unfortunately, the author fails to mention anything about Korea’s own contribution to this pollution even though numerous reports in 2015 illustrated this fact.

Just last March, Greenpeace, citing research conducted with Harvard University, stated that 50 to 70 percent of fine particle dust (PM2.5) is generated by Korea’s domestic coal power plants. And, in fact, Korea, which now has some 50 of these plants, plans to build a dozen more by 2021 as part of an energy plan launched in 2013, according to Yonhap. While pointing out these facts as part of its campaign against such an expansion, Greenpeace emphasized that, “Korea stands out as one of the developed nations with the biggest plans for new coal.”

In addition, World Coal magazine ran an article in May titled “South Korea’s power boost” in which it lauded the country’s increasing consumption of coal. Among the many plaudits, including one for the plan to build 12 new plants, the article concludes by stating, “[w]ith coal consumption having expanded by 55 percent between 2005 and 2012 and further increases planned, South Korea’s coal outlook remains promising...”

Then, in December, a report by the International Energy Agency listed South Korea as the world’s fifth-largest consumer of coal, with a per capita consumption in 2014 that was higher than China’s and double the OECD average. The report offered little praise for Korea’s increasing consumption of coal, which produces more greenhouse gases that harm the environment and contribute to health problems such as heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

As part of its ongoing campaign to encourage the South Korean government to rely less on coal and start planning for more renewable energy, Greenpeace stated that the government should stop placing all the blame on China “without having any strategies to tackle the problem itself” here at home.

Perhaps, rather than getting angry at China, it would prove more productive to examine the facts in-country, to realize that increasing domestic coal consumption is causing more smoggy days (thereby harming human and environmental health) and to join the campaign to prompt the government to develop strategies that embrace clean, renewable and health-conscious energy policies.

*John M. Rodgers , Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies

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