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605.21 km2    (233.67 sq mi)

Located in the northern region, Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. Roughly 9,700,000 people live in the metropolis with population kept at a relatively steady rate. According to the Seoul Development Institute, over 50% of Seoul’s population consider air pollution to be the most imminent environmental issue in the city.

Current Air Quality Situation
PM2.5 > WHO Air Quality Guidelines x 2.4 (24 μg/m3 in 2014)
Source of Air Pollution
  • The yellow dust and PM come from coal-fired industrial plants, vehicular usage, and sandstorms.

    • A total of 1,018 air pollutant emitting facilities, with 14 1st class emissions, facilities each emitting over 80 tons of waste pollution per year.

    • 65% of Seoul’s energy production is from coal, while 33% comes from renewable sources such as nuclear and hydro power. There continue to be newly constructed coal-fired plants, which jeopardizes air pollution.

    • Vehicular usage has increased to 3 million cars on the road, compared to 2.8 million a decade ago.

Air Quality Action Areas
Steps Taken

2003 Special Act on the Improvement of Air Quality in the Seoul Metropolitan Area

  • 1st Seoul Metropolitan Air Quality Improvement Plan (2005-2014)

    • Goal: drop PM10 levels from 69 µg/m3 to 40 µg/m3 and NO2 levels from 38 ppbv to 22 ppbv.

    • Outcome: the annual average PM10 concentrations decreased from 70.0 μg/m3 in 2001 to 44.4 μg/m3 in 2011and 46 μg/m3in 2014, yet it was still at least twice than that recommended by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.)

  • 2nd Seoul Metropolitan Air Quality Control Master Plan (2015-2024)

    • Goals: decrease PM10 to 30 µg/m3 and PM2.5 to 20 µg/m3 with a required 35-45% reduction of these particle emissions by 2024.

Increased international cooperation

  • A meeting between South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese ministers took place in 2013, announcing a plan to develop cooperation between the countries in order to prevent rises in PM concentrations.

  • A partnership between researchers in the United States and South Korea is conducting an international air quality field study in Korea (KORUS-AQ).

  • Academic institutions in Seoul are completing research and hold Asian emissions inventories to take stock on the emissions of SO2, NO2, PM2.5, PM10, and main GHGs.


Decrease PM10 to 30 µg/m3 and PM2.5 to 20 µg/m3 with a required 35-45% reduction of these particle emissions by 2024.

Expectation from EACAC
  1. UNEP AQ Policies South Korea. 2015.

  2. Megacity Air Pollution Studies-Seoul. National Institute of Environmental Research.

  3. Chung. Korea’s Policy Towards Pollution and Fine Particle: a Sense of Urgency. 2014.

  4. Seoul Metropolitant Government Statistical Tables.

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