Also known as Hwang sa

In Korea, the coming of Spring, can cause worried glances Eastward. As the equinoctial winds bring with them 'the yellow dust', making the air thick and visibility poor, blocking the sun in a murky haze, obliterating the already struggling horizon. With the 'yellow dust' comes health problems, sore throats, coughing, difficulty breathing. Some people wear cotton surgical masks, otherwise only commonly used in winter to protect the face from cold.

What exactly is the 'yellow dust'? Some people say it is carried from the Gobi desert. But people in korean seem to disagree on that. Talking to local Seoulites, I was told it has only really become a seasonal thing in the last seven years and is not a natural phenomena at all.

It is the result of major industrial development in the adjacent areas of China, but it's only at this time of year that the winds blow strongly across the Yellow sea or Sea of East as it is known to Koreans. It makes me wonder what must the air be like in that part of China year round!

The dust is high in heavy metals, especially in zinc and copper. I was told by one Korean that the yellow dust has some benefits to lifeforms other than people, it enriches the soil, depositing trace elements on the peninsula, feeding the crops and forests a tasty goodness. This might be true, but I'm a little skeptical of how enriching industrial pollutants can actually be.

Generally, April is a great time to leave Korea - for a couple of weeks if possible, conversely it is not exactly a good time to visit.

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