Ah, that fresh spring air – or not? Sales of special face masks, air pollution apps, and air purifiers are on the rise in Korea, as people are becoming increasingly concerned about breathing in 미세먼지, misemonji which translates as ‘fine dust.’

Seoul has recorded more frequent levels of PM2.5 ultra-fine dust in the air in recent years, particles well known for causing smoggy days and poor health in both Beijing and Delhi. Take a look at a real-time map of the air quality here.

What’s causing the dust? Industrial pollution from coal-firing plants, construction sites, diesel vehicle fumes, and waste being burned illegally. Some desert dust blowing over from neighbouring China also plays a part, but much of the pollution could be cut with changes within Korea itself, according to Greenpeace.

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What are most people doing to combat the dust? Wearing masks, but also downloading apps that measure the levels and then staying indoors on high risk days, according to the team at Talk to Me in Korean. An ordinary cotton or paper mask won’t protect people from PM2.5, so special masks with respirators are worn for this specific reason.

Bonus: EYK’s Simon and Martina talk about their experience with yellow dust, which plays a part in fine dust.


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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.