Monday, January 14, 2019


Seoul's AQI has been floating around the 230 mark* since about noon today; this is as bad as I've ever seen it. I can normally see the Lotte World Tower in the distance from just outside our place of work, but not today. Today, looking even a hundred meters ahead seems like looking into a light fog—but it ain't fog. It's all fine and superfine dust, some of which blows in from China, some of which comes from local, pollution-belching sources.

I had hoped to get back to walking tonight, after having taken a few days off because of a crazy food-prep schedule last week, but it doesn't look as though that's going to happen. So I'll either cab it to my place or take the subway, but first, I need to do the thing I still haven't done: transfer money from my Daegu Bank account to my Shinhan Bank account. That means trekking downtown. Paying for everything with my credit card is getting rather onerous; I can only guess at how my credit rating is suffering. Luckily, payday is the 16th—this coming Wednesday—so my coffers will finally be refilled after my $9000 dumperoo late last year. The plan this year is to save $3000 a month, then send $6000 every two months to my US account in order to pay down the last bit of my major debt. Doing that five times ought to do the trick, so in theory, I'll be debt-free by the end of October. That's going to happen after I turn 50, alas, so I'll have missed my goal of being debt-free before 50, but whatever—I'll be debt-free by the end of the damn year, and won't that be a relief?

For the moment, though, the highest priority is being able to breathe.

*The air-quality site I consult for Seoul, AQICN, uses a parts-per-billion scale. Read about it here and here. Very roughly, it's from 0 (healthy over 24 hours' exposure) to 500 (hazardous over 24 hours' exposure). Seoul's AQI (air-quality index) tends to vary, during the day, from around 60 (yellow/moderate) on a "good" day to 160 (red/unhealthy) on a "bad" day. Today is an outlier; we're not normally in the "purple" zone (very unhealthy), and generally speaking, the AQI indicators on the street read green at night, when I'm doing my walks (fewer cars?). A much cleaner city like Geneva might be eternally green, with a low-numbered AQI of around 20-ish. Lee District Park, near where I used to live in northern Virginia, is right around that level as well. So I hope that puts Seoul in perspective: things are bad in the big city. Here's how things look for Korea (mainly South Korea), as well as parts of China and Japan:

Brown is the worst; even if you can't see the individual AQI numbers, you can see that China has quite a few such regions. Seoul is pretty bad right now, with a surprising amount of red extending away from Seoul and trailing down the peninsula. Japan looks pretty wholesome by comparison, with swaths of yellow (moderate) and green (good). Note the general lack of data for North Korea... although I suspect the air there is markedly cleaner than it is in South Korea because of the poverty and its attendant lack of pollution-producing industry.


Charles said...

From what I saw on the news yesterday evening, it was the worst air quality ever recorded in Seoul.

Kevin Kim said...

I guess I should be happy that AQICN is recording "only" a 187 for today. 187 also happens to be police code, in the US, for "murder."

Guess I won't be walking the bike paths tonight. Again. The building staircase awaits.