21.11.2019 in Environment

Pollution in Seoul


Most of the urban cities in modern society have been experiencing increased pollution due to increased industrial activity. There are devastating effects of urban pollution especially to living things including human beings. The following essay will concentrate on pollution in the city of Seoul. It is the capital of South Korea, and its metropolitan areas have an estimated population of over 25 million residents. The essay will concentrate on the situation of pollution in the city and the causes of the pollution problems. The essay will also identify the actions that the local administration has been taking to tackle the issue and whether the interventions are effective. Lastly, the essay will identify the policy solutions that may ease the issue of pollution in the city. An analysis will show that Seoul has been experiencing pollution problems just like any other urban settlements, and the current pollution eradication efforts require enhanced policies to be completely effective.

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The Status of Pollution in Seoul

Since the 1970s when industrialization materialized in Seoul, the city had an imbalanced way of dealing with its affairs. Industrialization became a priority while issues of the city’s ecosystem were abandoned. As a result, the quality of the ecosystem of the city deteriorated rapidly throughout the industrialization period. Since then, the city has not rectified the pollution situation. The first type of pollution that the city experiences comes from its use of nuclear power and poor disposal of the related waste. Most of the nuclear waste materials have been deposited in temporary pools that are unsafe. As a result, the water ends up being polluted. Despite water in some parts of the city being safe to drink, increased waste from industries and sewage has increasingly harmed the river and coastal systems. As a result, the waste has resulted in the pollution of the city’s water sources such as the rivers and coastal sources.

Apart from the problem of water pollution, air pollution has been a significant problem for the city. One of the major sources of the air pollution is the city’s coal firing plants. The plants do not have an elaborate treatment system, meaning that the air gets expelled into the air. Another major source of pollution is the dust of air that has the toxic lead and arsenic that arises from China. As a result of the pollution, the city has experienced increased smog of harmful dust. As a result, the city’s residents usually have to wear protective masks in case of dust advisories. Once the dust particles from China reaches the city, their concentration reaches to dangerous levels of more than 100 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a reading to less than 50 is termed as good, while that of between 50 and 100 is termed as acceptable. However, any reading above 101 creates an unhealthy situation. An example of a recent pollution scenario in the city was in 2014 when the particles levels were 216 micrograms per cubic meter. As a result, the residents of the city had to don protective masks.

Causes and Effects of Pollution in the City

As indicated above, the causes of pollution are both internal and external. The internal causes include increased industrialization, poor disposal of nuclear waste, and poor treatment of sewage. The internal causes affect both the air and water ecosystems of the city. The major external cause is the harmful lead and arsenic dust that leads to air pollution. Other causes of air pollution in the city include the numerous diesel vehicles that operate under no strict rules.

When it comes to the effects, most of them are health related. According to research by Leem, Kim, & Kim on effects of air pollution in Seoul, pollution through the air medium mainly results to adverse health conditions or fatalities. The particulate matter that contains harmful chemicals increases the risk that an individual will be exposed. According to the research, 15.9% of the city’s deaths can be attributed to air pollution. Apart from the deaths, related diseases are also common in the city due to air pollution. Examples of the diseases include lung cancer and chronic conditions such as asthma. Water pollution in the city has also led to a myriad of problems. An example is the interruption of the ecosystem in which the aquatic life has been drastically exposed to danger. Moreover, the unsafe water for drinking has led to increased risk of contracting related diseases such as Cholera. As a result of increased water pollution in the city, it has become common for the residents to install water filters in their homesteads as cleaning agents. Moreover, it has also become common for the residents to opt for bottled water instead of tap water. As shown above, pollution in the city has resulted in health problems and the interruption of the normal ways of lives of the residents.

Actions by the Local Government to Curb Pollution

The local Seoul administration has been working hard to ensure that the city is free of pollutants. The first intervention is that the administration has initiated a policy to crack down pollutant industries such as spas and barbeques. The aim of the administration is to reduce pollution from the restaurants that produce grilled meat. Moreover, the administration has aimed at ensuring that spas install filters to reduce the extent of water pollution. When it comes to reducing the pollution that arises from the Chinese side, the Seoul administration has indicated of an agreement with Chinese counterpart to cooperate in reducing wind-related pollution. Some of the favored policies include planting trees in Western China as a way of reducing sandstorms flying into South Korea. The local administration has also aimed at reducing pollution associated with the transport industry. The administration aims at incentivizing fewer pollutant vehicles to replace the current diesel vehicles. Moreover, the administration has been promoting riding bikes and walking as an alternative transport means. When it comes to water pollution, the city has come up with the ‘four-river project’. The project aims at connecting four of the most polluted rivers with the aim of cleaning them up and also increase transportation through shipping.

Policy Recommendations

As shown above, the policies of the local Seoul administration have targeted most of the causes of pollution in the city. The sectors targeted include the industries such as the transport and restaurant industries. However, a common observation is that Seoul’s administration has mostly targeted the reduction of air pollution. For this reason, there is the need for a water pollution policies. A recommended policy to deal with the water pollution issue is to install sewage treatment technology in the public water delivery system. The administration should also enact laws that require companies that emit sewage to treat it before directing it into the rivers. As a result of the water treatment policy, the residents may find it safe to use tap water instead of relying on bottled water. Another policy that would aid in reducing water pollution is finding an alternative to the “four-river project”. The linking of the project would lead to more pollution because of the combination of the contaminated water. Moreover, shipping and more transport projects in the rivers would also increase air pollution and hamper the efforts under progress.

Recently, Seoul’s adoption of nuclear technology as a way of doing away with the pollutant coal has led to a new headache due to the poor disposal of nuclear waste. One of the major challenges is the lack of sufficient nuclear disposal sites. As a result, questions have come up about whether nuclear energy is green energy. A policy that can ensure that the nuclear energy is safe is the investment in nuclear waste storage sites to avoid their release into the city’s ecosystems. Such a move would ensure the production of safe water for the consumption of the residents.

Lastly, the city’s administration needs more cooperation with the Chinese administration to ensure the smog formation ceases. Planting trees to prevent the winds from blowing towards Seoul could be effective but not the long-term solution. The long-term solution would be to create a plan for eradicating pollution in both countries. Instead of building tress, the South Korea and Seoul’s administration should consider pressuring China to contribute more to eradicating air pollution on its side. In effect, the reduction of pollution would eradicate any smog formation in Seoul.


Seoul has been experiencing pollution problems just like any other urban settlements and the current pollution eradication efforts require enhanced policies to be completely effective. The city suffers pollution from both internal and external causes that mean internal and external solutions are necessary. Some of the measures that Seoul’s administration has been taking include controlling pollutant industries and liaising with the Chinese administration to control smog formation in the city. Despite the new measures, Seoul needs to ensure that more nuclear waste stores are installed and also put more pressure on China to reduce its pollution enacted. Such policies would ensure that the city’s air and water are safe for consumption, thus eradicating the disastrous effects that could result in health problems.

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