Monday, March 03, 2008

The Fifth Season

I've decided that Korea doesn't have four seasons after all - it has five, because today has seen the first serious day of Yellow Dust Season. When I awoke this morning, I naively registered the murkiness outside as fog, but on closer inspection there's no mistaking its colouring, which is bathing our large-windowed apartment in a yellowish ambient light.

Last year, we only suffered the Yellow Dust for a few days, but I gather it was much more frequent in Seoul. It's said that in the 1980s, South Korea used to have around four days of yellow dust storms annually, but in recent years this has increased to twelve. With environmental problems in China and beyond only getting worse, perhaps it's inevitable that an increasing proportion of the year will succumb to these kind of conditions. I wonder where it ends?

The real problem with the dust is the pollution it picks up on its way over China - heavy metals and various toxins are carried on the particulate matter, and when deposited on the Korean Peninsula, can make for an unpleasant soup of material to be ingested by anyone venturing outside without a mask. But perhaps there is a little good news on this front - with an increasing chance that the global economy is heading for the kind of global depression not seen since the 1930s, one consequence of the unfolding economic collapse should be less industrial production in China and therefore less toxic pollution generally within the region. The price for the cleaner atmosphere will be so high though in other ways, maybe if the worst comes to pass people will miss days like these, and what they signified.

"The annual spring winds carry heavy doses of hazardous heavy metals such as silicon, iron, aluminum, lead, cadmium and cooper from the Gobi Desert in northern China and southern Mongolia. As China industrialized and deforestation took place over the past decade, the density of the Chinese yellow storms has become worse.

In the southeastern port city of Busan, it was difficult to see or breathe and the Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education issued directives to close all kindergartens, elementary schools and special schools for disabled children. The city office also had 373 kindergartens, 293 elementary schools and 12 special schools cancel entrance ceremonies."

Yonhap News

So why do people still leave their washing out?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...'s so bad they close the schools? Yikes. Is it like that all over Korea, or is it mostly the cities?

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