The silent killer

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The silent killer

Korea has been blanketed by a fog of fine dust since the weekend. The heavy clouds of pollution scared citizens to the point of making many seriously consider emigrating. The lack of strong actions from central and local governments has been frustrating. They feign prevention through street-cleaning and shortened hours for large public establishments.

Pollution from fine dust has become a year-long ritual, and clear skies in springtime have become rare. Yet there has been little improvement. Mothers fret about their children’s health from the air pollution, a silent killer. There are thousands of petitions on the Blue House website demanding action from the government.

The measures we have seen so far are recycled and makeshift ones. The government under President Moon Jae-in, who vowed to take strong action, has been no different. It pledged to install a special committee under the president to reduce fine dust by 30 percent within five years. But experts question the government’s will and effectiveness in its policy.

The advisory committee went under the Environment Ministry instead of the president. The committee so far has met twice and has produced little output. The government vowed to shut down aged coal-fueled power stations, but ended up building more.

About 30 to 50 percent of the fine dust comes from China. Yet the government, who is strangely unassertive towards Beijing, has made little progress in pressing the country to take responsible action. Fine dust did not come up at summit talks. The two governments merely agreed to set up a cooperative center in August after ministerial talks.

Fine dust is not just alarming — it has become a threat to our lives. The top priority of the state is protecting civilian lives. The government is not qualified if it cannot come up with actions to combat fine dust. Instead of creating controversy with the talk of closing down nuclear power reactors, it must seek decisive actions on overall energy sourcing and clean fuel. It also must demand concrete moves from Beijing to prove itself a guardian of national interests and lives.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, Page 31
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