Every year, as spring makes its slow way across Korea, the country is set upon by the phenomenon of “yellow dust”. You might draw the curtains in the morning and find the jaundiced haze thick over the city, or leave for work in the morning to find your bike, scooter, car covered in a thin grainy layer of the stuff.
What it is exactly is a question that yields several returns. Some say it is sand from China, carried to Korea on the strong spring winds every year. A look at Wikipedia backs up this theory. Some say it is intense pollen marking the start of Spring. Others take a more cynical approach and simply chalk it up to an inherent haze of an Asian sky.
I’m not precisely certain what it is, but I do know that I lost my voice completely and for several days last spring, and then rasped my way through the following months when the dust levels were high. If you’re planning to be in Korea during the spring, there are several measures you can take to avoid the irritating health problems that typically result from yellow dust.
In Korea, it is common to wear a small mask across the nose and mouth throughout the entire dusty spring, and even during the frigid winters. This filters the dust and keeps you from inhaling it and having it settle on your throat. Be sure to keep your windows closed over night, and try to pick up an air purifier for your home or office. These can be found easily at large retailers throughout the country, like Emart or Home Plus. They are also available in smaller grocery stores or night markets. Tiny desk-top purifiers can be purchased for around US$8, or you can find mammoth machines that will purify your entire house.
Yellow dust won’t make you horribly ill, but it may cause you to loose your voice or hack your way through a few weeks of a cold. It certainly is no reason to inhibit your travels to Korea, but taking a few precautions could make your time in the area a little more enjoyable.