A Korean Spring - The Beautiful And The Ugly

by Anne Ladouceur, photo by Lor-Ah, 22/03/2013

Yellow has come to symbolize a Korean spring for me…and in keeping with the importance of balance in Korean culture,  there is both a good and bad yellow.  The good is represented by the beautiful yellow forsythia (kaenari) that bloom all over Korea from end March into April. Adding to the beautiful Korean spring are the azalea, magnolia and of course, cherry blossoms. We have posted this year’s ‘blooming schedule’ on the site as well as information on the many blossom festivals and walks.

However, our beautiful Korean Spring is increasingly marred by yellow dust storms(hwangsa). The fine sands of the Gobi Desert have been coming to Korea and other Asian countries for decades, but there is now more of it coming more often and it’s carrying extra ‘baggage – pollutants from the industrialized zones of China Recently researchers have determined that along with particles of dust and minerals the sand 'grains' also contain germs.  This extra baggage causes a number of health effects (particularly respiratory and skin problems). People who have not been bothered by the dust in the past have experienced reactions in recent years.


The first yellow dust advisories over the last couple of years have come in March.  For more information on the dust levels and a link to the Korean Meteorological Administration, look in the column on the far right of this page. Under the Weather information, you’ll see a box entitled Yellow Dust – there you will get the current levels in the atmosphere. You can also click on ‘more info' and you’ll get ‘more information’, including a link to the KMA. 

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the effects of the dust, including the following:
-  Avoid outdoor activities 
-  Keep windows and doors closed.
- Weat a yellow dust mask  (황사마스그 - hwangsa mask). Your pharmacist will help you.
-  Remove contact lenses and wear your glasses instead .
- Brush teeth and wash hands/face/eyes with warm water when back indoors.
-  Drink plenty of water to keep your tears flowing well.
- Use air filters to keep air clear and a humidifier 
- Wash fruits and vegetables.
- Wash your hands carefully before handling food.
- Avoid burning candles or smoking indoors
- Air out the house and wash any exposed object before using it, after a storm
(for more details on things you can do, see the Yellow Dust page in the Moving to Korea section.


 Even after the storm passes, be careful since the dust has settled and can easily be stirred by movement, wind, etc. To reduce its continued impact you should air out the house and wash objects that were exposed to the dust before you used them. When handling these dust-exposed objects, do it gently so as not to stir up the dust/sand.  Wash or vacuum window coverings, etc. as much as possible, especially after a 'dust' storm.

By taking a few precautions and being aware, we can enjoy the yellow beauty of spring without too many ill effects from the other yellow of a Korean spring. Speaking of enjoying and things coming early, the blossoms will be about 7-8 earlier this year. The cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias usually peak about one week after they bloom. They don't last long, so do take advantage of good weather and get out and enjoy the beauty of a Korean spring.


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