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Korean sky full of heavy fine dust for 4th consecutive day

11:05 January 14, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- Most of South Korea was blanketed by extraordinarily heavy levels of ultrafine particles for the fourth consecutive day Monday, with the authorities enforcing emergency measures to reduce public health hazards.

The fine dust concentration is particularly serious in the nation's central region, including Seoul and nearby areas. According to Air Korea and other fine dust watchers, Seoul's fine dust level surged to 151 micrograms per cubic meter as of 10 a.m, with its ultrafine dust fine level reaching 119 micrograms, nearly five times the WHO's recommended level of 25 micrograms.

A man walks along the Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown Seoul on Jan. 14, 2019, with the sky thick with fine dust. (Yonhap)

South Korea's authorities have classified the level of ultrafine dust particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, above 35 micrograms per cubic meter as "bad" and above 75 micrograms as "very bad."

Throughout the weekend, the level of ultrafine dust hovered around 80 to 90 micrograms in the capital area, forcing citizens to refrain from outdoor activities.

The latest wave of fine dust began Friday, when cold northern winds gave way to warm winds from China. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon last week rebutted Beijing's recent allegation that China has nothing to do with hazardous fine dust over the Korean Peninsula. Park said he has research papers from municipal and state labs that conclude around 50 to 60 percent of fine dust over South Korea is from China.

The Korea Meteorological Administration said the nationwide levels of fine dust will begin to fall Tuesday afternoon, when chilly winds from the north bring down the temperature and blow away the fine dust.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government banned half of public vehicles from the road for the second consecutive day as part of its emergency measures to fight fine dust. It is the third time after January and March last year that the Seoul government has taken emergency anti-dust measures for the second consecutive day.

The Ministry of Environment also took measures to tackle the dust particles and ordered domestic thermal power plants to reduce their output to 80 percent of normal operations.

Most citizens going to work Monday morning were seen wearing masks to protect themselves against harmful ultrafine particles.

"The sky is too thick with fine dust. It's like seeing a black-and-white TV. I'm afraid of even breathing because of the dark sky," said a Seoul citizen named Lee.

A Daejeon citizen surnamed Kim said: "Even though I used a mask, my throat is sore and my eyes are irritated. Even the air smells bad from the heavy fine dust."

ycm@yna.co.kr
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