The sun rises over residential and commercial buildings in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday, March 13, 2017.
SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By TIME Staff
May 24, 2017

China’s appalling air quality isn’t just sending the Chinese into despair. It’s also badly affecting people in neighboring countries. That, at least, is the contention of a group of disgruntled South Koreans who on Wednesday launched a suit against the governments in Beijing and Seoul.

A total of 88 plaintiffs say they have suffered mental distress and are at risk of respiratory problems because of the fine dust that blows into South Korea from the western deserts of China, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

Sandstorms from the Gobi Desert are a seasonal phenomenon in China, regularly affecting residents of the Chinese capital Beijing, where the dust particles mix with smog to send pollution readings off the charts.

The dust also makes it as far as Seoul, where it has sparked protests and the formation of a pressure group called Dust Out. However, while many South Koreans like to blame China for bad air, experts say the country’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants and diesel fuel is a major part of the problem.

The plaintiffs, however, are undeterred. According to Yonhap, their petition accused China of failing “to control pollutants at an acceptable level,” and had exposed South Koreans to “serious danger.” They are seeking $2,600 each in compensation.

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