+ A

Seoul hopes to ban all grade 5 cars from the city

Nov 23,2019
Seoul city government wants to ban all high-emission cars from entering the city from Dec. 1 until the end of March, but can’t due to a lack of legislation power, the mayor said Thursday.

“The special act on fine dust pollution is yet to be passed at the National Assembly,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in a press briefing at the city hall Thursday. “Once it is passed, the city government of Seoul is ready to place a ban on these cars. We have already coordinated with the Incheon and Gyeonggi governments to launch the ban together once the law is passed.”

The legislation will grant authority to local governments to ban highly polluting cars from entering their cities or districts.

Park made the statement while announcing plans to carry out a Beijing-like seasonal clampdown on fine dust pollution.

“Cities like Beijing have gone before us and addressed fine dust pollution seasonally,” Park said. “If the law is passed before March, we will be able to carry out the total clampdown on grade 5 vehicles this season. We will do our best to see that happen.”

The Environment Ministry has classified about 23 million vehicles registered in the nation from grade 1 to 5 based on their emission rates. Grade 5 consists of mostly old diesel-fueled cars.

For now, the city government will stick with banning grade 5 vehicles from entering an area designated in central Seoul as a green zone. The area is about 4,120 acres at the center of the city, within the Seoul Fortress Wall. Violators will be fined.

Fine dust pollution has seen its worst levels in recent years in Seoul. Causes have been attributed to local sources such as emissions from vehicles and factories and international sources such as fine dust particles flying in from China.

Korea’s Ministry of Environment’s National Institute of Environmental Research announced earlier this week the results of a joint Korea-China-Japan study on fine dust pollution in 12 cities across the three nations from 2000 to 2017.

It said 32 percent of PM2.5 fine dust pollution in Korea, on average, was a result of dust particles flying in from China, while 51 percent of the PM2.5 pollution was due to local sources in Korea.

PM2.5 particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. The World Health Organization describes them as carcinogenic. PM2.5 particles can travel through the respiratory tract and reach the bloodstream, possibly leading to lung cancer and other lung conditions as well as heart problems and strokes.

Seoul Metropolitan Government on Thursday announced other measures to try to target local sources of fine dust pollution.

“From Dec. 1 to the end of March, officials of the city government who drive to work will have to take turns to drive their cars - half of them driving one day and the other half driving the next day,” said Kim Eui-seung, head of the climate and environment bureau of the city government. “We will be checking on how much energy the large-sized buildings in the city are using every day and provide consulting to minimize energy usage. We have no legal authority to force them to use less energy, but we can still provide the consulting services.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]