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Climate change in South Korea - statistics & facts

Climate change is a global phenomenon, as such South Korea has not been excluded from its effects. Korea’s growth into an economic and industrial powerhouse added to the effects of climate change. However, the growth of civil society and greater access to information due to the spread of the internet, personal computers, and smartphones, resulted in greater interest and concern in climate change and environmental issues among the Korean public. 

According to a 2018 survey, the majority of Koreans agreed that climate change was caused by human activities, and less than ten percent thought it was a natural process. By far the most concerning environmental issue was  air pollution, according to 70 percent of respondents. Half of the respondents also chose waste disposal and global warming as the next most important issues. Many Koreans took to reusing disposable items, and purchasing products made from recycled materials as their individual ways to contribute to using less plastics and non-recyclable materials. 

Official statistics show that the amount of PM10 in the air in South Korea was  around 45 micrograms per cubic meter in 2017, while  major cities recorded means in the mid-twenties. The WHO specifies an annual mean of 20 micrograms for PM10. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for PM2.5 particles was 12 micrograms throughout the year. As of 2018, the Korean standards are annual means of 50 micrograms for PM10 and 15 micrograms for PM2.5. Particulate matter from domestic sources are decreasing with technological advances being applied to factories and waste disposal facilities. There were 59 days in 2018 when the PM10 and PM2.5 levels were classified as “bad”, according to the Korean standards. 

Most Koreans try to cope with particulate matter by frequently washing their hands, drinking more water, staying inside and wearing dust masks.  Sales of air purifiers jumped by 400 percent from 2016 to 2019, while  sales of drying machines skyrocketed by 2,000 percent. Traditionally, Koreans hang laundry on clothes lines or clothes racks, but with particulate matter in the skies, people are turning to drying machines to safely dry their laundry. 

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Climate change in South Korea

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Air pollution level in Seoul

Air purifier market

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