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Ban’s fine dust task force starts

Former UN head says he will dedicate rest of his life to the issue
Apr 30,2019
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The National Climate Environment Conference, the new presidential agency aimed at resolving Korea’s fine dust issue, holds its launch ceremony Monday morning at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul. [YONHAP]
A new presidential agency on fighting fine dust pollution headed by former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was officially launched on Monday.

The National Climate Environment Conference, the new presidential agency aimed at resolving the fine dust issue, held a launch ceremony Monday morning at the Korea Press Center in downtown Seoul. In his opening speech for the ceremony, Ban, the head of the agency, vowed to devote the rest of his life to tackling the issue.

“Korea is one of the worst victims of fine dust pollutions among the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,” Ban said. “It is painful to meet people who say they are seriously considering moving to another country because it is hard to breath safely in Korea.”

“I believe resolving fine dust pollution is the last task the people gave to me,” Ban said. “I will perform my job with a serious determination. I will willingly dedicate the rest of my life to resolving this problem.”

In March, Ban accepted President Moon Jae-in’s offer to head a national agency to organize long-term cooperation on a global level to combat the pollution. The government has been criticized for failing to confront China about its pollution that ends up in Korea. The agency will seek measures to tackle the issue in cooperation with other Northeast Asian countries.

Ban urged politicians to participate in the agency’s campaign.

“Heads of the five major political parties are not included as the standing members of the agency,” he said.

Ban also hinted that the agency will introduce measures that will likely affect businesses in order to reduce fine dust caused by industrial activity.

“The industries must show serious determination to put up with some losses,” he said. “The problems are the greatest in the industrial fields, but without excruciating effort, we cannot resolve this issue.”

Moon sent his chief of staff, Noh Young-min, to attend the ceremony.

“To resolve fine dust pollution, we need a long-term, systemic response and a comprehensive social resolution,” Moon said in a message that was read by Noh.

“I expect to see [the agency produce] great examples through cooperation with neighboring countries,” he said. “Decisions adopted at the agency will be reflected in government policy and pushed forward.” The agency has 42 members who are politicians, businesspeople, scholars, activists, religious leaders and public servants from central and regional governments. It also includes seven members of the general public, including an elementary school principal and a person who works outside all day while being exposed to fine dust.

The agency will have separate teams to tackle specific tasks, such as reducing fine dust, preventing damage and international cooperation. Experts and senior officials will also form an advisory group. The agency will create a plan to fight dust pollution from December through early May, the period with the highest concentration of fine dust. A long-term measure to fundamentally resolve the problems will also be discussed.

A participation group of 500 members of the public will be created next month. A discussion session will also be held before the end of June to collect public opinion. Based on the information, the agency will create a policy plan and submit it to the government before the end of this year.

BY CHON KWON-PIL, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]