South Korea Says Air Pollution Is ‘Social Disaster’ To Unlock Emergency Funds

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that more and more children are getting affected by air pollution.
The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that more and more children are getting affected by air pollution. (Photo: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski)

South Korea increased its effort in battling pollution through a bill that labels the problem a "social disaster". The new bill can unlock emergency funds to be used against air pollution.

South Korea is the fourth-largest economy in Asia and pollution is one of its leading problems. Pollution in the country is driven by coal-fired power generation and high vehicle emissions. The pollution level of the country gained the public's concern and criticisms weighing on South Korean President Moon Jae-in's approval rating.

The "disaster" label on the issue allows the South Korean government to use parts of its reserve funds in responding to any damage or emergency caused by the issue. This year, the country's reserve funds are around 3 trillion won.

The South Korean government also passed other bills that include mandating school classroom to have an air purifier. They also removed the limit on the sales of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles because they produce fewer emissions than gasoline and diesel-run vehicles. Previously, there were bills created to battle pollutions including capping operations at coal-fired power plants.

According to the data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Korea's air quality was the worst among its members as of 2017. The data showed that the country's annual average exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) of less than 2.5 micrometers was 25.1 micrograms per cubic meter. It is more than twice the OECD average of 12.5.

The standard PM level according to the world health organization should be less than 10 micrograms in terms of PM 2.5 levels. Most parts of South Korea experienced high levels of pollutants for six consecutive days in early March. On March 8, Gallup Korea released their weekly poll that showed that President Moon's rating was down by 3 percentage points from a 46 percent rating a week earlier. The proposed bills will become laws in less than 15 days unless objections are raised. South Korea's neighbor, China, also extended their efforts in fighting pollution while trying to reverse the damage the issue has caused from over three decades of continuous economic growth.

China has been promoting the use of electric cars in exchange for fossil-fuel running vehicles. The country encourages the development of electric batteries to be used in cars in the country in the near future. They also capped the operations of some of its industries to lessen its carbon emissions.

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