The Korea Herald


Anti-fine dust body launched in S. Korea under ex-UN secretary-general

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : April 29, 2019 - 15:36

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Speaking at the Monday launch of a pan-national anti-fine dust body, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for efforts to reduce domestic emissions as well as for closer cooperation with China on the issue.

Ban Ki-moon (Yonhap) Ban Ki-moon (Yonhap)

Headed by Ban, the National Council on Climate and Air Quality aims to find solutions to the particulate pollution issue, come up with policy ideas, and coordinate actions with neighboring countries such as China.

“When I met Chinese President Xi Jinping in early April, he was aware of South Korea’s serious concerns over fine dust and we agreed to cooperate to share our experiences and tackle the problem,” Ban said at the launch ceremony held in Seoul.

Koreans generally view China as a major source of toxic pollutants over the Korean Peninsula. Studies by state agencies point to China as responsible for up to 70 percent of the fine dust here. Beijing rejects those claims.

Ban said the new body would take a long-term, comprehensive approach that would look beyond the vested interests of certain sectors and called for unity in combating particulate pollution. 

The 43-member council is composed of several committees and a senior advisory group. A body of 500 members of the public will be launched next month, and its members will be invited to pitch their ideas to the council.

Korea ranked lowest in air quality among the 36 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as of 2017, followed by Chile and Mexico. Typically, high levels of PM2.5 -- ultrafine airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter -- blanket Korea from autumn through spring.

In a message to mark the launch of the council, Moon said the Korean people deserved to enjoy clear air.

“I hope that the council could become a role model for resolving the climate-environment issue through cooperation and coordination with South Korea’s neighboring countries,” Moon said in a message read by chief of staff Noh Young-min, pledging that the council’s decisions would be reflected in government policies.

South Korea has taken action to fight the pollution.

The special act on reducing fine dust came into force in February, imposing restrictions on coal-fired plants and old diesel cars. The National Assembly passed a bill in March declaring the fine dust problem a ”social disaster,” enabling the government to allocate an extra 1.5 trillion won in its budget for the fight against particulate pollution.