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Asia Minute: South Koreans Find Air Pollution Scarier than Kim Jong Un

Doug Sun Beams

We’re about a month away from President Trump’s scheduled meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. While residents in South Korea are closely watching developments, a survey shows they also have some surprising attitudes when it comes to their neighbors to the north. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

When South Koreans list their fears, North Korea doesn’t make the top of the list. In fact, it just barely makes the top five.

That’s according to a report released this week by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. It’s based on a survey of nearly 4,000 South Korean adults — and it ranked the threat from North Korea as number five.

Number four is water pollution, number three: complications of the country’s aging population.

The second-highest source of concern for South Koreans is economic stagnation. But the biggest worry is air pollution – which has been getting worse in recent years.

Earlier this year, the government tightened restrictions about when public schools can hold class outside because the air quality is worse than it used to be.

Credit Cheolstar / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Busan Sajik Stadium, home of the Busan Lotte Giants.

Just last month, it got so bad that three professional baseball games were cancelled because of air pollution — the first time that’s ever happened. The Korea Football Association has now adopted guidelines that would cancel professional soccer games if air quality declines below a certain threshold.

And this is one area where cross-border concerns do not have anything to do with Kim Jong Un.

According to South Korea’s government, about half of the polluted air in the country comes from China.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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