REPUBLIC OF KOREA'S ECONOMIC SUCCESS AND THE PARIS AGREEMENT GOAL OF REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
by Rachel Lee
Abstract – South Korea is one of the most polluted countries in the world — in 2016, Korea had 76 days with bad air quality and only 45 days with good air quality. This is an issue of immense significance: medical studies conclude that polluted air can cause serious health problems such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and other ailments. Particulate matter floating in the air smaller than 10 micrometers profoundly threatens children and asthmatics and can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream of adults. The Republic of Korea or ROK is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below the current Business As Usual (BAU) emissions by 37% by 2030. The ROK Ministry of Environment currently oversees Korea’s pollution monitoring and regulations; however, attaining the Paris Agreement goals may be difficult considering the nature of Korea’s export-oriented economy. The ROK is the 5th largest exporter of goods in the world — the resulting success and trade surplus have significantly increased per capita income and improved the standards of living. An atmospheric test using measuring equipment provided by NASA found that half of the air pollution in Korea originates from industry, power generation, buildings, and transportation vehicles. The fact that the majority of South Korea’s air pollution comes from within makes proactive solutions possible. This paper will investigate the path forward, examining how industrial contributors to air pollution in Korea can work with NGO actors, environmental experts, and government officials to achieve the ambitious Paris Agreement goals.