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China's gift to Seoul? Toxic smog

SEOUL, South Korea — The toxic smog that’s enveloped China in the past week has drifted over to South Korea, increasing air pollution to double the government’s acceptable level in some cities and provinces, the Financial Times reported.

South Korea’s National Institute of Environmental research said the concentration of dust in the air was measured at 218 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul, 247 micrograms per cubic meter in Gwangju and 272 micrograms per cubic meter in Busan, AsiaOne reported. The acceptable level for microparticles is 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

According to the Financial Times:

"Levels of sulphur and nitrogen oxides in the air from January 12 to 15 were up to four times higher than in the same period of last year."

“Our country’s air pollution is affected by air pollution in China, because pollutant substances are blown in by westerly winds,” Oh Young-min, an official at the Environment Ministry, told the Financial Times.

However, most Koreans surprisingly seemed not to give much thought to the smog, said GlobalPost's senior correspondent in Seoul, Geoffrey Cain. South Koreans have always dealt with yearly dust storms from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, but now, those storms are full of toxic particles.

"But for some, it's contributing to the country's chronic headache over China, a country that Seoul sees as both a military threat and an irritant in general," Cain added. "Chinese pollution will probably become an issue as President-elect Park Geun-hye assumes office in February and makes her opening diplomatic trips to neighbors. Her constituents will push her to raise this point with China's incoming leader, Xi Jinping."

Environment groups are already laying on the pressure. One organization, Friends of the Earth Korea, has called upon South Korean leaders to organize a meeting with environmental ministers in nearby countries.

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