SOUTH KOREA - Gray pollutants that have turned China's Beijing into "Gray-jing" appear to be affecting Korea as well, government researchers said Wednesday.
The level of particulate matter and air pollutants including sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide in major cities surpassed two times the standard in recent days, prompting authorities to issue health advisories and environmentalists to take to streets.
"The recent smog in Korea is a mixture of air pollutants coming from China, water vapour and polluting substances (mixed into the snowmelt)," said Kim Jong-choon, a director at the National Institute of Environmental Research.
Beijing has recently been suffocated by gray smog. The Chinese capital on Sunday issued its first-ever orange alert, indicating visibility was less than 200 metres.
The concentration of PM 10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrograms per cubic metre) in the air marked well above the standard in major cities and provinces, including the capital Seoul with 218 and Gangwon Province with 276.
The standard is 100 micrograms per cubic meter in the air. Busan was found with 272, Incheon with 244, Daegu with 235 and Gwangju with 247.
"The particulates may cause respiratory diseases. Further examinations for secondary pollution of soil and water are needed," the researcher said.
The Ministry of Environment promised to closely monitor the pollutants by conducting checks on a regular basis.
Environmental groups demanded that the government take prompt measures to tackle air pollution.
"Air pollution is not a matter that can be solved by Korea alone. It should be discussed and resolved in cooperation with neighbouring nations such China and Japan," Choi Jun-ho, director of Friends of the Earth Korea, said at a press conference Wednesday, insisting that a trilateral meeting among environment ministers be held.
The director added that particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter should be in check since the particles are more harmful and stay longer in the human body.
The government plans to introduce the standard in 2015.