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South Koreans angry over fine dust pollution

By
Elizabeth Shim
An electronic signboard displays an advisory against fine dust in downtown Seoul on Monday. Photo by Yonhap/ EPA-EFE
An electronic signboard displays an advisory against fine dust in downtown Seoul on Monday. Photo by Yonhap/ EPA-EFE

SEOUL, March 4 (UPI) -- South Koreans are voicing their frustration over a lack of government response to the increasingly pressing issue of fine dust pollution.

People who spoke to local television network JTBC on Monday said they are weary of the daily emergency alerts sent to their smartphones from government agencies.

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Exceptionally severe pollution cast a haze over the skies of Seoul on Monday.

South Koreans interviewed on television complained of sore eyes because of the fine dust pollution, an indicator the problem is worsening while little is being done to address the issue.

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Others said wearing face masks have become mandatory; without protection, their noses and throats begin to ache, according to JTBC.

People are becoming more organized in response to pollution. One online community, founded by mothers in their 30s and 40s, is staging rallies and writing petitions to the presidential Blue House.

Lee Mi-ok, head of the group, said more protective measures for the children and the elderly are needed. Lee said she "stays up all night" to learn about fine dust so she can take action.

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Particulate matter from China is one of the causes of the pollution. Other reasons for bad air include greater domestic reliance on coal, following a recent decision to shut down nuclear energy stations.

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South Korea is also experiencing a mounting garbage crisis.

Regulations put in place in 2017 have prevented incineration facilities from using waste plastics as a source of fuel, causing more trash to overflow in the streets of Seoul as waste companies refused to collect it, according to CNN.

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Private collectors of trash have been filling the gap, but they have also been responsible for environmental degradation, according to the report.

South Korea has been struggling to export its trash, after China banned several kinds of plastic waste that it previously accepted from South Korea.

Seoul is reconsidering the policy on incineration in order to resolve the problems that come with illegal dumping and increased waste.

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