A Year in Seoul - video by Maddy

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Yellow Dust Cometh

Spring has arrived in Seoul. The roaring winds have softened into gentle breezes and the air has lost it's hostile bite. Sun rays permeate the city, adding warmth and sparkle to an urban landscape refreshed by intermittent rain showers. Flower buds peak out from glistening blades of grass and birds return to trees still bare but humming with the energy of transformation. In the coming weeks the famous cherry blossoms will bloom emitting their fragrant colorful magic into the air. Restaurants will spill over into the streets and parks will swell with activity as all of Seoul enjoys the contentment of Springtime.

Not everything that Springtime brings is pleasant, however. The warm breeze carries with it what is called the "Yellow Dust." This phenomenon occurs when sand from the deserts in Mongolia is disturbed by storms and carried across China, Korea, and Japan by the winds. The dust collects pollutants during its journey across industrialized China and then hangs over Korea in a hazy yellow cloud. The dust can cause respiratory and eye problems in addition to being a general nuisance. Outdoor activity is not advised and many Koreans wear masks to protect their throats and lungs.

The Yellow Dust arrived last week, and so far I haven't noticed any symptoms other than minor eye irritation. I also haven't really noticed huge changes in visibility. The dust arrives sporadically throughout the Spring, however, so it might be that the worst days have not yet occurred. I'm not too excited to find out.

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