[Op-ed] Invisible and Silent, Yet Deadly
Fine dust and Korea’s pollution crisis
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What are some of the best-selling items these days? Sanitary masks are, indeed, one of the most compelling products. There has been a 380 percent increase in nasal sanitizer product sales, with a 213 percent rise in sanitary mask sales. What is the cause of this phenomenon? The severity of the fine dust in the air seems to be the catalyst of the sales boom. With the emission of toxicant chemicals from automobiles and industrial sites being the main culprit of the fine dust pollution crisis, Korean is going through a major pollution issue and is on its way to address that problem.
What’s all the fuss about?
Recently, emergency text messages informing citizens that the fine dust level is particularly bad that day are sent directly from the government, not to mention the myriad of people that can be seen wearing sanitary masks outdoors. This means the situation is really getting serious now, unquestionably demanding some counteractions to be taken. Korea has the highest density of fine dust concentration among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), recording 32 micrograms of fine dust per cubic meter, while Iceland is on record for being the least polluted country, showing 2.9 micrograms of fine dust per cubic meter.
The size of fine dust is about seven times smaller than the width of an average person’s hair, which can freely and effortlessly enter human bodies through the nasal cavity or through the skin, reaching deep inside and inducing various health issues such as dementia, stroke, dysrhythmia, angiosis, hair loss, nasal inflammation and much more. The biggest problem with the fine dust is that the particles are so small that they are unfilterable, meaning they can get to any part of the body and cause a wide variety of diseases.
It is not the thought that counts, it is the action
It is not hard to figure out that there is no quick-fix solution for Korea’s situation now. In response to the deteriorating issue, the Korean Ministry took action: since the harmful emission from automobiles is a great contributor to the overall situation, the government hoped to entice people to take public transportation by making it free of charge for one day. Though it sounds reasonable, this approach received considerable criticism for several reasons. First of all, this solution is only temporary, yet very costly. Moreover, voices were heard that the money should rather have been invested in developing technologies to converting current automobiles into electronic or other non-harmful types or in developing technologies to absorb or cleanse the polluted air.
This approach was one of the four emergency actions established by the government, which are to be taken as the situation gets irrevocably worse. The other actions include an odd-even license plate policy (cars with license plates that end in an odd number can only be driven on an odd number date and vice versa), the reduction of factory operation hours, and the closing of parking lots. All these approaches evidently aim to reduce the toxic emissions from automobiles but do not aim to provide an alternative direction to remove the root of the problem. Citizens express great dissatisfaction about the actions the government has taken, voicing that they are only temporarily or partially resolving the trouble. However, to remove the root cause of the whole situation would cost a lot of money and if the government raises the tax rate to do so, people will surely show hostility as well. In an individualistic society, such as the one we live in today, people would care more about their own future than their country’s. In such a case, how can the government afford to meet both the requirements of the people and this monstrous disaster?
Being aware that the silent monster is growing more and more powerful everyday, both the government and citizens are nervous. What we need in this situation is not arguments and criticisms but cooperation. The current situation necessitates a multilateral approach since its scale has exceeded the moderate level. More than one solution should be carried out by more than one group of people. An unilateral solution cannot effectively address such problem, meaning the government alone cannot single-handedly resolve the tragedy. There must be a cooperation between the government and the people, at the level of both individuals and corporations. The government should provide the least burdensome and the most effective solution and the citizens should cooperate in order to maximize the effect and to defeat the common enemy.
Jeon Chae-yun firstname.lastname@example.org
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