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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Fine Dust in Ulsan: A Guide to Protecting Yourself from Pollution


Let’s face it, Ulsan has never been known as the cleanest city in Korea. Fact is that it has always been known as one of the richest, thanks to the many industries and factories that call this city home and because of that, it is also known as one of the more polluted. It has been stated that residents of Ulsan have a shorter lifespan than those living in other parts of Korea.

However, recently the pollution all across Korea has become a serious problem. With fine/yellow dust levels getting to levels higher than in previous years, how do we keep ourselves healthy while we are here in Ulsan? Sadly, there are not too many options but hopefully, this article can give you some ideas and perhaps some piece of mind.

Ulsan June 6th, 2018


Wear a Mask

This is the first step and often the most frustrating. I hate wearing masks but on days when the air quality is bad, you almost have to wear a mask if you want to go outside. The trouble is that with so many masks on the market, which ones are good? There are a few that I have found that offer good protection and an affordable price.

You need a yellow dust mask or 황사마스크 and not the cloth masks that you see some people wearing. What you are looking for is a mask that creates a good seal around your nose and mouth but is comfortable to wear. Also note that those single use surgical masks, don’t cut it either. 

What you are looking for is a mask that is ranked at least KF80 but, masks with a rating of KF94 and KF99 are optimal these days. These masks are typically single use masks that should be thrown out after a days usage. The reason being is that moisture from your breath will create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

One of the more recommended masks is the DOBU mask which can be found at 7-11 stores around the city. These are generally a little more expensive than the regular masks, about 3000 won per mask. However, you can find them for a lot cheaper on Gmarket as well. They are rated KF94 and can block particulate matter down to pm2.5, which is very good. The fact that it has a valve on the from that actually functions is also a bonus. The nose piece is also more comfortable than the typical metal band that many cheaper masks have. They are often sold under different names as well, so check places like GS25 for similar looking masks.

There are also reusable masks available online and around town. These are often more expensive than the single-use masks. However, they are also a little more stylish, if that is a concern of yours. Vogmasks can be purchased from Amazon and there are also Korean versions of these masks available online as well.

Where to Buy a Mask in Ulsan

Masks can be purchased pretty much everywhere in Ulsan. I do however, find that the selection at Daiso affordable and  their selection of masks is also quite good.  Daiso stores can be found all over Ulsan. If you can’t find one, use Kakao Maps to locate the closest one. If you are stuck, most local convenience stores will carry at least a KF80 mask. These single use masks are usually between 1000 won and 3000 won depending on the rating and the quality.

If you are looking for something a little more fashionable, Vogmasks can be purchased on Gmarket and there is also a Korean version called 6mask that is quite similar. Both both are rated for KF94 and they come in a variety of styles and colours. However, these options are considerably more expensive but at least you can wash them.

If you are looking for a more industrial-grade mask then there is a shop behind the Up Square bus stop called K2 Safety,  has a better selection of masks made for more industrial purposes. However, with the increased demand for masks, they also sell high-grade consumer dust masks as well.

Get an Air Purifier

These appliances have out sold air fryers and even dryers amid the ever worsening air quality. They range in price from a few hundred thousand won to almost a million won depending on the size, filter quality, and brand. If you are willing to invest in one, the samsung ones seem to be the most popular and affordable. Check out places like Home Plus and Emart for a decent selection. Chinese brands like Xaiomi offer an affordable option to more expensive Korean versions.

The benefits of having an air purifier go beyond just cleaning the air. Many will give you the current level of dust in your house as well has alert you to other issues like toxic fumes and gas leaks. These are also a proactive step to actually cleaning the air in your home, rather than just blocking it.

The recommended usage is to close the windows and run your air purifier on high for about 10 minutes. Then set it to automatic mode. This is the most effective way to clean the air according to recent studies.

Get Educated

The biggest issue these days is that many people see a blue sky and think that the air quality is ok. Apps like IQ Air’s Air Visual can give you an accurate read out of the air quality but there are a number of Korean apps that will give you a better readout. Apps like Mise Mise (미세미세) are highly recommended and accurate. Handheld air monitor units can also be bought off of Alibaba or Gmarket for a reasonable price, more information on there here.

The facebook group, Clean Air Ideas In Korea is also another great resource for you to stay up-to-date with ways to protect your lungs in Korea. The admin Derek Fichtner is quickly becoming an expert in the fight against poor air quality in Korea. The group has many great resources from mask reviews to guides on how to make a DIY air purifier. Much of the information has been made into a very informative site called Clean Air Korea and it is worth a look.

Other Suggestions

Air Filters for your screens – These can be purchased off of Gmarket and can help catch some of the dust if you want to open your windows to air out your apartment. However, how effective they are is up for debate. So do keep that in mind.

Get LOTS of houseplants – Derek recommends Rubber Tree plants, Snake Plants, and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue which can be purchased at many stores around the city including E-mart and sometimes Home Plus. Costco sometimes has a good deal on them as well. The NongHyup Mart next to Costco has a better selection of these plants snf perhaps even a better price. Typically, about 6  or more plants will make a difference in your home and especially in a one-room apartment.

For more tips check out this article
Jason Teale is a freelance photographer based in South Korea specializing in travel, Cinemagraphs, food, and documentary photography. Available for assignments in Ulsan, Busan, Seoul, and nationwide.