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Schooling with masks?

Apr 12,2017
The first thing Koreans do upon waking up is to check the outside air condition. Hearts of parents are heavy every time they hear their children complaining of itchy eyes, runny noses, and difficulty of breathing. Over 15 million parents across the nation go through the agony every morning. The unwelcome spring visitor of fine dust arrives every year in greater force, and yet the government does little to combat it. Alerts for dangerous air conditions due to fine dust have been made 86 times this year, the highest number in three years.

Seven parents filed lawsuits against the Korean and Chinese governments for claims against the danger to their health. The Seoul education authority came up with independent action. It ordered schools to make students wear masks and keep them indoors when fine dust particles concentration exceeds 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. It commanded schools to form a committee comprised of parents and experts to supervise dust levels and install air purifiers in classrooms.

But having students wear masks and installing air purifiers are hardly a fundamental solution. It is as lame as the thought of reducing the size of windows when suicides increased among students being bullied at school. The government must initiate a national campaign and act. The measure we have seen so far from the government is the decision to adjust the fine dust alarm scale. The environment ministry blames China for more than 80 percent of the fine dust, while outside experts think China contributes around 20 percent. The government must strengthen diplomacy measures with China to jointly fight air pollution and reduce carbon-emitting power generation and outdated diesel vehicles from the roads.

Presidential candidates also must come up with an agenda to answer the public’s demands regarding air pollution. Fine dust must be seen as a national disaster that can threaten and destroy the lives of future generations.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 30