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Yellow Dust March 22, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.

yellow-dustYellow dust (also Asian dust, yellow sand, yellow wind, or China dust storms) is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon which affects much of East Asia sporadically during the springtime months. The dust originates in the deserts of Mongolia and northern China and Kazakhstan where high-speed surface winds and intense dust storms kick up dense clouds of fine, dry soil particles. These clouds are then carried eastward by prevailing winds and pass over China, North and South Korea, and Japan, as well as parts of the Russian Far East.

As you can see from the picture above (click to enlarge), the dust clouds are visible using satellite photography as they leave mainland China en route towards Korea and Japan. Areas affected by the dust experience decreased visibility and the dust is known to cause a variety of health problems, not limited to sore throat and asthma in otherwise healthy people. Often, people are advised to avoid or minimize outdoor activities, depending on severity of storms. For those already with asthma or respiratory infections, it can be fatal.

Hooray!! Spring is finally here. Now get our your SARS masks and don’t go outside.

We knew air quality was going to be less than desirable but we certainly didn’t expect it to be this bad. We were fine for the first couple weeks but just this past week as the weather became gorgeous, we both started getting mild soar throats. Mine went away within a day or so but Katie has turned into Darth Vader. She can’t breath out of her nose at all and has a really bad cough and soar throat. We got her some allergy medicine but it’s not really doing the trick. She’s reached the point where she’s considering wearing a mask when we’re outside. I don’t really notice it at all as it just smells like we’re living in a big city with a bit more fish, but I did become a little bit more concerned when half my class showed up on Tuesday wearing masks because of a dust storm advisory.

Now consider for a moment that you can buy cigarettes for only $2.50 per pack, and that you can smoke in bars and restaurants and you start to wonder how there isn’t a lung cancer epidemic. Maybe there is for all I know. What is does explain is why it’s culturally acceptable to hock a loogie wherever and whenever you want. You won’t go more than 10 minutes walking outside without seeing or hearing someone let one fly. You actually have to watch where you’re walking as these saliva/mucus landmines are everywhere. Katie absolutely hates it (I find it mildly entertaining) but even when she succumbed to a coughing fit and came close to coughing up a phlegm wad, her class didn’t bat an eye and carried on as if she had sneezed or something.

If you don’t like fresh air and you like dust, smoking and spitting mucus, this is the country for you.

May the force be with us.


1. Brigitte - March 22, 2009

I didn’t get a notification! Just thought I’d check in case and here’s your post!!! Are you guys going to wear masks tomorrow?

FYI also sitting in your old leather chair.

2. Kasia Fink - March 23, 2009

Poor Katie! Don’t be afraid to wear a mask – if Michael Jackson can do it, so can you.

3. Nanners - March 23, 2009

Great explanation Jordan. It was almost like I googled “Yellow Dust” on Wikipedia. This still does not explain why people wear them while shopping at the Eaton Centre.

4. M Squared - March 24, 2009

for a second there I thought it was sulfur – and that would be even cooler. Have you seen Arec Barrwin yet? bc when you see Arec Barrwin, you see the true ugriness of human nature.

5. Marty - March 24, 2009

Heroin…..China White

6. Suranyi - March 24, 2009

get a dehumidifier for your apt. right now. and other than that always have some liquid on you….Dr. Suranyi out.

7. Mulqueen - March 24, 2009

I hope the Korean tourism board is paying you for this shining endorsement.

8. D - March 25, 2009

Please read Suranyi’s comment again.

And again.

And again.

9. Sean - March 26, 2009

Sorry to say you will never get used to the loud hawking of lugies.

As for the dust – Sorry to hear Katie is having problems with it. The smog will be no worse than Toronto – But the smell of rotten garbage – I dont need to tell you.

I can just imagine how much you pissed that Madonna chick off. If there is anyone better to look down there extremely long nose at someone and make them feel like a piece of shit; its you Jordan. Well done.

Great posts – keep em coming (Also more pictures!!!)

10. I Had This Great Idea For A Post Earlier Today… « Ricardo Rockin’ in the ROK - April 17, 2009

[…] pool, you can’t really go wrong.  Also, Korea is in the tail end of the infamous yearly Yellow Dust season, so going out for a run is not the greatest idea at the […]

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