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  • Seoul works with Beijing to combat ultrafine dust

  • Press Releases SMG 3927

    -Seoul announced ‘Comprehensive Air Quality Improvement Measures’ which consist of 23 programs in seven areas, which aims to improve air quality to the level of advanced cities.

    – In between February and March, Seoul aims to sing MOU with Beijing and create committee among Northeast Asian cities

    – Public forum and hearing on driving limit under the fine dust advisory will be conducted to reflect public opinion on policy making.

    – CCTV surveillance infrastructure will be enhanced by more than five folds. Fines will be imposed on pollution emitting cars entering Seoul.

    – ‘Adopt a tree’ campaign will be launched and promote tree-planting under Seoul citizen’s name in the deserts, where yellow dust is originated.

    – Additional web cameras will be installed in Baengnyeong-do and Ganghwado, providing timely air quality information for the public.

    – 「Behavior Guide: Protect Your Health against ultrafine-dust」 manual will be distributed for the vulnerable gorups. Anti-Yellow dust mask will be given to 65,000 low-income households.

    – ‘Air Quality Improvement Committee’ and ‘Health Council for Vulnerable Groups’ will be launched. Relevant departments of the city government will be expanded and reorganized.

    – Considering air quality directly affects public health, SMG commits to making comprehensive efforts including international cooperation.


    Amid growing public concerns over air quality degradation due to fine dust, Seoul metropolitan government decided to take coordinated action with major Northeast Asian cities including Beijing, from which high density fine dust is originated. Already in the New Year, two times of pre-fine dust advisorys were issued.

    Beginning from this year, the city government will step up its efforts to control the amount of NOx, the biggest component of find dust. SMG will assess effectiveness of driving limit in times of air pollution advisory, and take heed to the opinions of citizens. In addition, the SMG will encourage installation of a device that slashes pollutants emission, as well as the use of eco-friendly boilers.

    In addition, CCTV infrastructures for pollution-emitting car surveillance will be expanded by more than five folds this year and the scope of surveillance will be expanded from Seoul-registered cars to cars registered in metropolitan areas such as Incheon and Gyeonggi. When those cars without low-emitting device enter Seoul, about 200,000 won fines will be imposed.

    Additional web cameras to measure air quality in Baengnyeong-do and Ganghwado will be installed, allowing citizens to better brace for fine dust in advance. 

    Seoul Metropolitan Government on January 28 announced ‘Comprehensive Air Quality Improvement Measures’ which consist of 23 programs in seven areas. Seoul officials said the city government aims to cut the ultrafine dust level of Seoul to those in advanced cities abroad within ten years.

     To this end, Seoul aims to cut the level of ultrafine dust to 18 micrograms per cubic meter by 2024, which is much lower than 25 micrograms, the WHO’s recommended limit.

    Seoul’s 2013 concentration level of ultrafine dust (dust of particulate matter 2.5 or less) was 25㎍/㎥ on average, which falls under the environment permit, but it is still 1.6~2.1 times higher than those of cities in advanced countries such as New York, London, LA, Paris, whose PM levels were only 14㎍/㎥,16㎍/㎥, 18㎍/㎥,15㎍/㎥, respectively.

    ※ 「The 2nd Basic Plan for Metropolitan Area Air Quality Control」: Ultrafine dust level(PM-2.5) Goal for 2024: 20㎍/㎥

    The basic frames of the plan consist of 23 programs in following seven areas; ①to enhance cooperation with main cities, including those in China, ②to listen to the citizens’ opinions on driving limit under the pre-fine dust advisory, ③to step up regulations regarding LEZ (Low Emission Zone), ④to supervise high-pollution emitting restaurants and saunas, ⑤to promote ‘Planting Trees’ campaign to prevent desertification’ , ⑥to install more web cameras to access air quality in Baengnyeong-do and other areas to provide better air quality information to citizens, and ⑦ to establish air-quality improvement governance.

    Given the fact that about 30~50% percent of air quality of Seoul is affected by air qualities of China and other neighboring countries in Northeast Asia, air-quality improvement efforts by Seoul alone can do only so much. In order to address fundamental cause of fine dust, Seoul decided to step up international cooperation with major Northeast Asian cities.

    As a first step, Seoul plans to conclude ‘MOU for Air Quality Improvement’ with Beijing by coming February or March.

     Last December, Seoul officials, including director of Climate Change Department, visited Beijing and discussed the issue. In January, the conclusion of MOU was proposed and was favorably accepted by Beijing city government. Currently, details of MOU are under discussion.

    Issues that are currently in discussion include; ▴to share best policies and cooperate on best air quality technology, ▴ to dispatch officials to each other’s city government, ▴to establish relating forum in Northeast Asia and to host international seminar in Seoul and Beijing alternately ▴ to exchange air-quality information, and ▴ to adopt Seoul’s dust-inhale vehicles in Beijing as a pilot program.

    After the conclusion of the MOU with Beijing, Seoul plans to reach similar MOU with other major Northeast Asian cities including, Tianjin , Shenyang , Shanghai, Shandong of China and  Ulaanbaatar of Mongolia.

    Based on those efforts, Seoul will promote the establishment of ‘International Forum to Improve Air Quality in Northeast Asia’ during the second half of year, and will expand the scope of cooperation with other cities in affected areas.

     When established, the Forum can serve as a major venue where best practices of air quality improvement in Northeast Asia cities are shared, and concrete measures for cooperation for the cause are discussed.

    Seoul will also focus on the control of NOx, the biggest components of ultrafine dust, of which emission density is higher in Seoul than other advanced cities. As much as car emission accounts 35% for the NOx emission, control of car emission lies at the center of the efforts.

    Seoul’s emission density of NOx is 268 ton/㎢ per year, which is much higher than those of advanced cities. For example, the density level of Tokyo and London is of 96 and 37 ton/㎢ per year respectively. The biggest source of emission is vehicles, which take up about 35% of the emission, followed by scattered dusts emitted from industrial and non-industrial facilities, and construction machines, which account for 17%.

    In regards with NOx control, Seoul plans to listen to the opinions of experts, civic groups, and academics before the adoption of driving limit during air-quality advisory.

    Pre-Ultrafine dust advisory is issued when the per hour fine dust level hovers 85㎍/㎥ or above for more than two hours, while ultrafine dust advisory is issued when the level is 120㎍/㎥ or above for the same span of time.

    In order to decide the feasibility and desirability of the driving limit, SMG will study air pollution mitigation effects of the measure and take heed to the opinions of various sectors through experts’ forum, civic hearing, and polls.

    In the meantime, SMG decided to recommend following measures: for drivers, it is advised to refrain from driving under the air pollution advisory. As for construction sites with large scale (100,000 square meters or larger), shipping, disembarking, transferring of dusty materials are suspended and the sites should be thoroughly cleaned with dust inhaler and water sprinklers. As for the sites where large amount of dust is emitted, the sites are advised to be temporarily closed.

    Beginning from this year, fines will be imposed if cars whose pollution-emission exceeds the permit level and if those cars are registered in metropolitan area such as Incheon and Gyeonggi (except for Gwangju, Anseong, Pocheon, Yeoju, Yeoncheon, Gapyeong and Yangpyeong) as well as in Seoul. After initial advisory for the first breach of the regulation, fines of 200,000 won will be imposed up to ten times. Currently, Seoul, Incheon, Gyeonggi (except for the seven cities mentioned above), are designated as Low Emission Zone (LEZ).

    Pollution-emitting vehicles refer to vehicles whose emission level exceeds the permission limit. These cars should be equipped with device to slash the emission, or be converted/replaced with low-pollution engines. But if the cars registered in the air-quality control jurisdiction are without necessary alteration, the relevance regulations will be imposed.

    ※ From 2015, LEX will be expanded to include entire Gyeonggi area.

    When the 「The Special Act on Air Quality Improvement in Metropolitan Area 」 goes into effect in 2015, the relevant regulation will be applied to every vehicle registered in the country, and pollution-emitting cars are barred from entering Seoul.

    In preparation for the enation of the law, Seoul will expanded CCTV infrastructure from 22 cameras in six areas to 120 cameras in thirty areas. Through a system development, 2,195 traffic surveillance cameras will be harnessed for stricter monitoring.

    For public housings commissioned by SH, installment of eco-friendly boilers that emit fewer pollutants and have high fuel efficiency will be promoted.

    At the request of SMG, the promotion of eco-friendly boilers is included in the second basic plan of air quality control in metropolitan area. Eco-friendly boilers control oxygen and flame temperature, cutting NOx emission by more than 50%.

    Despite these strong points, eco-friendly boilers cost a bit more than ordinary ones. In order to promote green boilers in other form of residence, Seoul will offer subsidies from 2015, helping residents to replace their boilers with eco-friendly ones.

    In addition, from 2015, construction sites of middle and large scales will fall under stricter emission limit regulations. Currently, sites with annual emission of 20 tons or above are being regulated under two categories. From 2015, sites with annual emission of 10 tons or above will be regulated as well. There will be tougher supervision on the total amount of air pollutants. Small scale sites will be inspected as well, but they can receive free consulting service on the pollution regulation.

    In the meantime, tougher regulation and inspection are set to be applied to Jjimjilbang (Korean Spa) and roast meat serving restaurants. Although they emit large quantities of ultrafine dust, often they have left in the blind spot of inspection and regulation.

    In Seoul downtown, there are about 10, 000 restaurants that serve roasted meat, and 1,650 of them are more than 100 square meters in size, emitting 234 tons of ultrafine dust every year. As for 1,135 saunas in Seoul, 263 of them are Jjimjilbang, which emit 103 tons of ultrafine dust each year.

    In order to slash fine dust emissions from the roast meat restaurants, pilot program of installing black carbon slash device was carried out between September, 2012 and August, 2013. As part of efforts to encourage the low-emission device installment, emission prevention manual will be prepared and distributed to those restaurants. In addition, there will be tougher inspection on VOCs (volatile organic compound) emitted from gas stations, dry cleaners’ and printing shops.

    In order to cut VOCs from refueling, inspection on the inhaling device installment at gas stations will be stepped up. In car-painting facilities, eco-paint that contains fewer VOCs should be used and proper VOCs control facilities should be installed and operated, which will be subject to tougher inspection and monitoring.

    At the same time, the use of green paints and inks will be encouraged in the public sector. Seoul will establish governance and launch ‘Adopt a tree’ campaign in collaboration with companies and civic groups, which will promote tree-planting under Seoul citizen’s name in the deserts, where yellow dust is originated.

    In addition, Seoul will join the planting tree campaign to prevent further desertification in Kubuqi deserts in the northern China, Mongolia and other Northeast Asian areas. Seoul will also run anti-desertification and low-carbon emission programs at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) conferences,

    Desertification is induced by both natural causes and human activities including global warming, less rainfalls, overgrazing, poorly managed agriculture, and mining. It is estimated that 27% of China, and 90% of Mongol has turned to arid land.

    As a result, yellow dust originated in the Gobi desert and Mongolian Plat and northern China reach Seoul, degrading the city’s air quality. Every year for the last decade, Seoul has been trapped in the siege of yellow dust for nine days on average.

    Air-quality information for the public will be enhanced as well. To this end, additional web cameras in the inspection sites of Baengnyeong-do and Ganghwado (Gyekryelbiyeoldo) will be installed and connected with Seoul inspection sites, offering air quality information on the three areas.

    Already web cameras installed on the roof top of Seoul City Hall Seosomun Building record air quality and real time video clips on the cameras are broadcasted at the Seoul city government’s air quality website: http://cleanair.seoul.go.kr.

    Since air quality of Seoul is affected by atmosphere of Northeast Asian cities and metropolitan areas, those cameras allow citizens to check the air quality with exact numbers with vivid visuals, helping them to prepare in advance.

    On the other hand, to better protect the weak from fine dust hazards, Seoul metropolitan government will prepare 「Behavior Guide: Protect Your Health against ultrafine-dust」 manual, and distribute the booklet to childcare, welfare facilities, and postnatal care centers. The manual will help citizens to better understand toxics of ultrafine dust and to better protect themselves by wearing anti-Yellow dust mask and taking other recommend responses. It will also provide a guide to receive ‘Ultrafine Dust Alert Text message service’, which will alert citizens with text messages on fine dust advisorys and behavior guide.

    To better protect public’s health who are exposed to fine dust at outdoors, air quality information will be provided on electronic display boards on public transportations, including subway trains and buses.

    Through ‘Hope Ondol Program’ with Community Chest of Korea, Seoul will initiate the provision of two pieces of yellow masks for each of 65,000 low income household members.

    In the meantime, relevant departments will be reorganized to strengthen air quality control policy and promote civic participation on the issue. To gather a diverse opinion on air quality control polices, ‘Air Quality Improvement Committee’, will be set up and consist of air quality experts, health civic groups and journalists. ‘Health Council for Vulnerable Groups’ will be launched as well, with 10 to 20 members, who work at welfare facilities for the elderly or the disabled, postnatal centers, childcare centers, as well as elementary school teachers, parents, pediatrician, physicians, elderly policy experts and professors. Through public hearing, their opinion to better protect health against hazards of fine dust will be reflected on the damage mitigation policies

    The Air Quality department of Public Environment Institute will be expanded and reorganized to ‘Air Quality Control Center of Seoul’, and its policy development capacity and research on air quality will be enhanced. In the meantime, the Seoul Institute’s Climate Energy Research Center will be reorganized to ‘Climate, Air, and Energy Research Center’. Cooperation with Korean Society for Atmospheric Environment will be enhanced as well.