“Hwang Sa” or Yellow Dust


Each Spring in Korea, from around March through May, a weather phenomenon know as Hwang Sa occurs. This centuries old event is when yellow dust drifts over the peninsula from the dry desert regions of China with the winds of the jet stream. In recent years, due to deforestation and increased pollution levels, the dust contains not only sand, but chemicals and bacteria that can be harmful to people, animals, crops, and electronic devices.

hwang sa dust

The effects of yellow dust can vary, from mild irritation to the eyes and throat to more severe respiratory problems. Adults and children with asthma, allergies, and skin sensitivities should take special measures to protect themselves.

When levels are high, the following measures and precautions should be taken:

– limit outdoor exposure and activities; remain indoors during hazardous levels

– keep windows and doors closed

– wash your hands and face after being outdoors

– wear long sleeve clothing and wipe off shoes after being outdoors

– use air filters and humidifiers in your home and work place

– wear a protective mask while outdoors and use one designated for yellow dust (marked with 황사마스 in Korean); simple cloth masks may be cute, but may not be enough.

(Note: one mask brand/style that has a good reputation here, and can be found at E-mart, is the 3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator mask.)

hwang sa mask

The Korean Meteorological Association (KMA) will send out dust storm predictions and cell phone text alerts when levels get to a hazardous level.

Here are a few online sites (which have their own phone apps, as well) where you can check the local air quality:

Air Korea

Asia Air Quality Index (AQICN)

hwang sa map

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