Moon wants China’s aid on fine dust in the air

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Moon wants China’s aid on fine dust in the air

President Moon Jae-in ordered his administration Wednesday to negotiate with Chinese authorities on ways to tackle fine dust coming from China, cautiously blaming the neighboring country for Korea’s filthy air.

Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom relayed Moon’s comments in a statement to reporters, saying Moon demanded the Korean government come up with emergency measures based on talks with Beijing.

The Blue House chief suggested the two countries jointly call for emergency fine dust reduction measures when needed, which in Korea’s case involves taking cars off of roads and temporarily halting operations of local coal power plants when fine dust levels spike. Moon suggested they could combat the fine dust issue with artificial rain and cooperate on building a fine dust warning system.

Domestically, Moon suggested the government dedicate a supplementary budget to combating fine dust if necessary, adding that local authorities must consider shutting down coal power plants more than 30 years old earlier than planned. The Moon administration is trying to demolish six such plants by 2022, but Wednesday’s order from Moon could mean the government will try to get rid of them earlier.

Moon’s order came a day after he was briefed by his environment minister about the country’s terrible air and as members of the public have been venting at the Blue House for idly sitting by - and for not confronting Beijing about it. Opposition lawmakers from the Liberty Korea Party lashed out at Moon for kowtowing to China, pointing to research results that indicate emissions from Chinese factories along the Yellow Sea are to blame for Korea’s air pollution.

But China doesn’t acknowledge that. During a recent meeting between the two countries’ environment officials, Beijing denied any responsibility for Korea’s fine dust problem, claiming its own air quality is improving.

In regard to the artificial rain plan, Blue House spokesman Kim quoted Moon as saying that China’s cloud seeding technology was more advanced than Korea’s.

The Korea Meteorological Administration teamed up with the Environment Ministry to hold an artificial rain experiment last January in the Yellow Sea, but the government announced two days later that it failed to wash away fine dust.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, the newly-elected head of the Liberty Korea Party, criticized the Moon Blue House for ignoring the fine dust crisis and said he doubted the Korean government would be able to carry out any joint initiative with Beijing after two years of ignoring the problem. Na Kyung-won, the conservative party’s floor leader, urged Moon to hold a bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping dedicated to the fine dust issue.

The floor leaders of the three largest parties agreed Wednesday afternoon to pass bills related to fine dust next Wednesday.

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