Korea runs pell-mell over fine dust measures [2016/06/14 16:03]

President Park Geun-hye`s recent calls for plans to reduce fine dust have certainly sent out a powerful signal to the government, pushing it to find an immediate solution to a problem that has been around for years.

But with the lack of a policy direction or a pangovernmental control tower to take charge, individual ministries continue to remain at odds on how to accomplish the suggested goal. “A state-level measure should be established to address fine dust, which is a crucial problem threatening the safety and health of our people,” Park said May 10 at a Cabinet meeting.

She especially highlighted automobiles as a key cause of fine dust, underlining the need for environmentally friendly cars. The president`s dedicated calls for plans to counter fine dust -- which accounted for up to a third of her entire speech -- took even Cheong Wa Dae officials by surprise.

“(The fine dust issue) was not part of the prewritten script, so we presume that the president brought it up on her own, reflecting her growing interest in the matter,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity. On the same day, the Board of Audit and Inspection issued a report to contend that the government`s fine dust curbing policies have been poorly managed.

It was the Environment Ministry that bore the biggest blow from the Blue House`s push, turning it on the diesel automobile industry. In the week following President Park`s Cabinet meeting remarks, the ministry said Japanese automaker Nissan had faked the gas recirculation device of one of its diesel-fueled sport utility vehicle models to hide excessive nitrogen oxide emissions.

The ministry also set out to impose extra restrictions on diesel cars in general, increasing the price of the relatively cheap fuel. Currently, the price of diesel is maintained at 85 percent that of gasoline, based on an energy policy set in 2005.

But the price hike plan was immediately countered by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The Finance Ministry cited the negative impacts of the tax hike on domestic industries, while the Land Ministry expressed concerns over the diesel-reliant public transportation industry.

The ruling conservative Saenuri Party, too, stood against the diesel price hike plan. “Increasing the diesel price will only add burden on the people and may not be an effective counterplan to fine dust,” floor leader Rep. Chung Jin-suk told reporters Wednesday. “On the contrary, (the government) should consider lowering the price of gasoline.”

Amid such ongoing conflicts, the related ministries held a closed-door meeting over the weekend under the supervision of the presidential office of government coordination, but once again failed to reach a consensus.

Their common dilemma is that the president, who is currently on a 12-day overseas trip and will return Sunday, will be requesting an immediate solution blueprint.

Cheong Wa Dae has so far refrained from elucidating its stance over the inter-ministry feuds, claiming that a comprehensive counterplan was still under discussion.

The opposition circles pointed at the presidential office for triggering slipshod competition among the ministries for a solution to fine dust without a vision or responsibility for the consequences.

“Government ministries are lost in confusion and without a control tower, while the president is absent on an overseas tour and the Prime Minister`s Office is failing to take charge,” said Kim Chong-in, interim chief of The Minjoo Party of Korea.
출처: 헤럴드미디어 영자신문 코리아헤럴드 (www.koreaherald.com)