For the first time ever, commuters in Seoul were exempt from paying public transportation fees. This is a part of the Seoul government's emergency measures to deal with fine dust levels that are expected to be significantly high on Monday and Tuesday.
The emergency measures are implemented when fine dust levels go above 50 micrograms per cubic meter, and Seoul saw levels of 57 as of 4 p.m. Sunday.
"The fee waiver provides an incentive for people to take public transport, and it also raises awareness of the severity of the air pollution. The emergency measures may be a foreign concept to the public now, but we're hoping they'll catch on over time."
The alternating driving system, which asks drivers to take turns using their vehicles based on whether they have an odd and even numbered license plate, was also adopted, and more than 300 public parking lots were closed.
"The financial aspect will definitely motivate more people to take public transport and I believe these small efforts will take us in the right direction."
"I'm not sure how much it will change, but I guess even one less car on the road would help. My daughter has asthma and I'm a cancer patient myself so fine dust is a worry for me personally."
Medical experts say fine dust can affect anyone, regardless of health or age.
"Those with weak immune systems, such as children or seniors, would be affected the most, but even those who are healthy would feel lethargic when exposed to high levels of fine dust."
The expert adds that many studies now show that those living in areas with high levels of fine dust have shorter lifespans, and that fine dust is linked to all types of health problems, not just limited to the lungs.
This current rise in fine dust levels is mainly attributed to the wind coming from the north-west, and the increased pollution from heating systems in China, where people are trying to cope with plummeting temperatures.
With high levels of fine dust projected until Wednesday, commuters are advised to wear masks when outdoors, and to keep to the alternate-days driving recommendations to reduce pollution on the road.
Lee Jeong-yeon, Arirang News