Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon announces the government’s policy direction on the environment, during a ceremony to mark the 22nd Environment Day at the KINTEX convention center in Ilsan, Goyang-si City, Gyeonggi-do Province, on June 5. (Prime Minister’s Office)

The government has stated its aim to take active measures to counter fine dust emissions, particulate matter and other forms of air pollution.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon has announced that, “Our government will work hard to resolve the issue of fine pollution, which threatens the health of the citizens, and make the air cleaner so that everyone can breathe without concern.” The prime minister was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 22nd Environment Day.

With the theme of the ceremony being “The Republic of Korea, where human lives and environmental values live and breathe,” the prime minister said, “The Moon Jae-in administration will do its utmost to realize a sustainable society through a living environmental policy.”

“We will establish epoch-making, comprehensive measures to counter fine particulate matter, to reduce such emissions by more than 30 percent across the country, and will strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries, including China,” said Prime Minister Lee.

To this aim, the Seoul Metropolitan Government also announced 10 new air pollution countermeasures on June 1 and will execute them starting in July this year.

Under these emergency measures, the city government will issue a so-called “Seoul model emergency program” whenever the average air pollution level in the greater capital metropolitan area goes above 50 micrograms and when it's predicted to be in excess of that level through to the next day.

When the capital announces such an emergency program, the city will encourage citizens to participate in an alternate travel system for car drivers by leaving their vehicles at home, based on odd and even numbered license plates. When the emergency program is enacted, public transit will be free during rush hours, allowing commuters the use of the subway, bus and other public transportation systems from early in the morning until 9 a.m., and then from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In order to maximize the effects of the alternate travel system for car drivers and to minimize any confusion, the city will negotiate with other public transportation organizations, including Korail, and transport companies in Gyeonggi-do Province and Incheon Metropolitan City.

Seoul will also introduce the “Seoul model of monitoring ultrafine particle levels and their effect on susceptible groups” in order to protect the elderly and the infirm. When the average level of ultra-fine particles goes above 75 micrograms for more than two hours, the city will issue this additional warning. The city will offer filter masks to 1.05 million people, including infants and toddlers, children, pregnant women, and seniors over 65-years-old.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee expressed his government’s will to faithfully abide by the Paris Agreement to jointly respond to climate change. 

The prime minister said, “Our government will reduce the number of coal thermal power plants and expand our use of renewable energy in order to move toward low-carbon energy sources. We will also induce the public sector to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to make use of this as an opportunity to incubate new industries.”