Busy finding scapegoatsKorea cannot be a normal country if people cannot freely go outside or open their windows. The air has remained dangerously smoggy after the level of ultrafine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter hit unprecedented levels on Feb. 25. Emergency anti-dust measures have been enforced for five consecutive days. On Monday, the dust density reached 130 micrograms per cubic meter, which can be as hazardous to one’s health as smoking six cigarettes a day. Over the last five days, everyone, including children, might as well have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes.
It is back-to-school season, and yet parents cannot feel safe about sending their kids to school. Less than half of schools across the country are equipped with purifiers in classrooms, as well as are the nation’s gyms. The toll on the economy cannot be ignored: people remain inside, hurting street businesses; corporate competitiveness may also be suffering.
The government has practically done nothing. During the presidential campaign, Moon Jae-in promised to cut fine-dust pollution by 30 percent. Yet his administration has failed to come up with fundamental solutions to the problem. The education minister was too busy fighting with private kindergartens that refused to open in protest of new state regulation. The Environment Ministry held an emergency meeting, but only came up with the idea of restricting older cars from entering the capital region. The ruling party blames the former conservative Lee Myung-bak administration for aggravating road pollution.
While the government and ruling party are busy finding scapegoats instead of devising solutions, people’s living standards are worsening. Authorities must try to dig out an effective approach instead of repeating the same old unproductive measures.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 5, Page 30