September 08, 2009 11:45
Seoul is noisy due to ongoing construction, outdoor concerts and cars on the streets. The average level of noise in Seoul last year was 68 decibel, well over the legal limit of 65 decibel. But Seoul is not the only noisy city in Korea: in a survey by the Ministry of Environment of 33 cities nationwide last year, 13 exceeded the limit.
The stress from noise has reached serious levels. Among 2,086 environment-related petitions submitted to the National Environmental Dispute Resolution Commission since 1991, 86 percent or 1,790 cases were noise- and vibration-related. In a nationwide survey by the National Statistical Office of people aged 15 or more last year, 92.8 percent said noise was the same or got worse in recent years.
The area near the Seoul City Hall is one of the noisiest, with demonstrations and rallies all year round. A Seoul City official said, "Whenever we get a petition from residents nearby about noise, we tell them there is nothing we can do as demonstrations are legally held. We advise them to report it to the police by calling 112."
Noise from everyday life is managed by local district offices and noise caused by demonstrations is regulated by the police. But neither straightens out the situation immediately. Officers say they cannot deal with every case because they get many similar petitions every day.
Chang Sun-o, an otolaryngology professor at Seoul National University, said, "Repeated exposure to noise over 85 decibel for eight hours or more a day can increase mental stress and damage hearing." But Kim Hwan-suk, a sociology professor at Kookmin University, said, "There is a limit to what authorities can do about controlling noise. Of course it should not compromise their responsibility, but there has to be willingness among people to cooperate in reducing noise levels."
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