Worsening air quality aggravated by fine dust particles is taking its toll on Koreans. City dwellers have begun to move to a seemingly pleasant town on the outskirts of Seoul and other remote areas or even emigrate to escape the pollution.
Online communities are flooded with messages about how to deal with the growing concern of toxic smog and heavy fine dust.
"One of my friends who recently moved to Jeju Island said they have clear skies almost all year round," one said. "Although life there might be a bit more boring than living in the city, children would love it and I'm seriously thinking about getting ready for moving out of the city."
But it can be hard for many to start a new life in a new place as they have to work and other obligations. Those that have the means are buying getaway homes in the country instead.
"I've been thinking about relocating, especially with the toxic haze frequently blanketing the skies last year, but I can't just leave my work and move elsewhere at this moment," said an office worker in his 40s in Seoul. "I decided to rent a home in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, instead. It's financially burdensome, but I didn't want my preschool daughter to be confined indoors all day long whenever the air is so bad."
Otherwise, a growing number of people dream of leaving Korea for other countries. They cite concerns about their children as the main reason for their motivation.
According to data by Daumsoft, which analyzed words that appeared on blogs and community websites, the use of the word "fine dust" soared from 125 in 2015 to 1,428 in 2017, along with the associated words like "kids" and "emigration."
The website of Cheong Wa Dae has also been swamped with over 200 messages complaining about fine dust and over 172,435 citizens signed an online petition to protest against China as much of the toxic smog covering the Korean Peninsula comes from China.
"The government needs to recognize the seriousness of the matter and come up with more effective measures," said an environmental activist.