Tired of being forced to suck in another country’s GDP, a South Korean environmental activist has sued the governments of both Seoul and Beijing for the mental distress caused by “fine dust” particles filling the air.
Environmental pioneer Choi Yul and attorney Ahn Kyung-jae filed the case to the Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday, seeking 3 million won ($2,600) in compensation each, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.
South Korea’s air has grown dirtier and dirtier over recent years and its heavy-polluting close-neighbor has picked up much of the blame as industrial pollutant particles blow over the border along with yellow (and occasionally radioactive) dust from the northern deserts of China.
“As a member of the international community, China has the obligation to control pollutants at an acceptable level,” the plaintiffs charged, claiming that China had neglected this duty.
But, as NPR noted last year, South Korea also has itself to blame when it comes to its worsening air quality thanks to its reliance on coal plants and diesel fuel.
“What you have is the combination of what is being generated within Seoul and within the broader, very industrial environment of Korea, added onto by transport of pollution from China,” Dr. Jonathan Samet, an epidemiologist who heads the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California, said. “So, yes, Koreans can point the finger at China — but you know it has to be pointed internally as well.”
Which is why Choi and Ahn are also suing Seoul, arguing that the government has not done a good enough job explaining to the public the exact cause of the fine dust swirling around the city. “The purpose of this suit is to find out the cause of fine dust and to set a milestone for the two countries to lead Asia in the new era based on mutual efforts,” they said in the petition.
Of course, right now doesn’t exactly seem like the most likely time for mutual efforts to take place between the governments of Seoul and Beijing — even as both capitals have been shrouded in smog this week. Chinese netizens certainly don’t appear to like the idea.
“Why don’t you use THAAD to intercept the smog?” asked one Weibo user. “No one is forcing you to breathe, you can choose to die,” suggested another. “It really has caused mental distress, just look they are all retarded,” wrote one more netizen.
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