While intensifying urbanization has resulted in poorer conditions for controlling noise damage and indoor air, there is greater public demand for quality of life, and it is becoming increasingly necessary to improve people’s everyday living environments. Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment has formulated various measures to address everyday matters such as indoor air quality, indoor radon, and noise levels while also carrying out basic research regarding electronic waves, light pollution, and other areas that lack adequate controls.

Indoor Air Quality

Korea manages the indoor air quality of 21 facility groups (public-use facilities) including subway stations, underground road shopping districts, medical institutions, steam rooms, large shops, and movie theaters in accordance with the “Indoor Air Quality Control in Public-use Facilities, etc. Act.”

Maintenance limits are set for fine particles (PM10), carbon dioxide (CO2), formaldehyde (HCHO), total airborne bacteria, and carbon monoxide (CO), and any violation is addressed by administrative action such as fines or correction orders. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2), radon (Rn), total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), asbestos, and ozone (O3), which are relatively less dangerous or whose sources are located externally, recommended limits are set for self-regulated compliance.

Constructors of newly built multi-unit dwellings consisting of 100 or more homes, for which the “sick house syndrome” is of particular concern, are required to determine and announce the indoor air quality before the residents move in.

The Ministry of Environment also works together with associated government ministries to determine and announce construction materials that produce large amounts of pollutants such as formaldehyde and TVOC. Construction materials announced by the Minister of Environment are prohibited from indoor use in public-use facilities and multi-unit dwellings.

The “Public Transportation Indoor Air Quality Control Guideline” was prepared in December 2013 and has been enforced since March 2014 to improve the indoor air quality of urban railways (subway), railways, express and direct intercity buses, and other public transportation vehicles.

In addition, for small facilities that are not subject to legal controls, an indoor air quality analysis and improvement project management manual has been developed and distributed since 2007 to encourage the facility managers themselves to manage the indoor air quality.


Radon is a colorless, odorless, natural radioactive gas produced via the decay of uranium naturally present in soil and rocks. Exposure to radon that has been produced from the ground and has built up indoors can lead to lung cancer, making it necessary to control the radon concentration of indoor air. According to the World Health Organization, 3% to 14% of lung cancer worldwide is caused by radon, which has been named the second major cause of lung cancer after smoking.

In Korea, radon is controlled by setting a recommended limit (148 becquerels (Bq/m3) = 4 picocuries (pCi/L)) for indoor air quality in public-use facilities.

Investigations were conducted in public buildings (661 schools, 439 government offices, 2008-2009), public-use facilities (330 locations, 2009-2010), 1,000 households (2010-2011), and 20,000 households (2011-2014) nationwide to examine indoor radon levels. Residential radon investigations will be further expanded and the results will be used to create a national radon map.

In addition, a free radon determination and reduction consultation service has been provided since 2012 for underground and ground floor residences, which are vulnerable to radon exposure. Any residence that has exceeded the limit and has a high radon concentration is provided with a radon alarm.

Noise and Vibration

Factory-generated noise is managed by the emission facility reporting and permit system under the Noise and Vibration Control Act. The noise-emitting facilities of factories are fixed noise sources; once installed, the noise source cannot be removed and may cause continuous damage to nearby areas. Installation of any noise-emitting facility near a school, general hospital, public library, multi-unit dwelling, residential area, childcare facility, or other places where quietness is required must be permitted by the local government. The reporting system is operated in other areas. There were 37,299 noise-emitting businesses subject to permits or reporting in 2013, and among these, 950 obtained a permit in a quiet area.

Traffic noise generated by sources such as motor vehicles and trains not only has very high noise levels, but also affects vast areas. In Korea, areas where damage caused by traffic noise is of concern are designated as traffic noise and vibration control areas, and measures can be taken such as speed restrictions and detour orders. In the case of motor vehicles, permissible limits are specified for the acceleration, exhaust, and horn noise of manufactured vehicles and the exhaust and horn noise of vehicles in operation. A noise map has been under construction in eight cities since 2013 to formulate reduction measures by identifying the noise distribution and exposed populations of each city.

There is a wide variety of everyday noise sources including megaphones, construction sites, work noise from small factories, and entertainment venues. While recent urbanization has led to an increase in everyday noise sources, there is growing demand for quiet living environments following enhanced living standards, which has resulted in a sharp increase in civil complaints regarding everyday noise and calls for measures to address the situation. In 2013, noise complaints accounted for 39.6% of all environmental complaints. The Noise and Vibration Control Act prescribes regulatory limits regarding noise generated by megaphones, small factories, and construction sites, and noise levels exceeding these limits are required to be addressed by reduction measures such as the installation of noise prevention facilities and work time adjustment. Recently there have been frequent incidents of noise between floors in multi-unit dwellings (apartments), resulting in conflicts between neighbors and creating a social problem. Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment jointly enacted the “Control Standards on Noise between Floors in Multi-unit Dwellings” with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. In 2012, a professional agency was also established to provide consultation and mediation regarding noise between floors.

Monitoring and Consultation for Noise between Floors

Aircraft noise generated by airports also affects surrounding areas. Accordingly, aircraft noise limits have been prescribed in the Noise and Vibration Control Act since 1994. The “Airport Noise Prevention and Areas Assistance Act” was enacted in 2010 to lay the groundwork for the successful execution of noise measures projects to address aircraft noise damage.

Vibration refers to strong shaking movements caused by the use of machinery and equipment. It usually spreads to buildings through the ground and generates secondary noise inside the buildings. The Noise and Vibration Control Act mandates the installation of anti-vibration facilities and prescribes permissible vibration limits. Factories in residential areas that have been the subject of civil complaints are required to install anti-vibration facilities prior to facility operation.

Light Pollution

Korea enforced the Act on the Prevention of Light Pollution by Artificial Lighting as of February 2013. According to this Act, regions of si and do areas that are affected by or are likely to be affected by light pollution can be classified into and designated as one of four types of lighting environment control areas. Installation of any lighting equipment in a lighting environment control area must comply with permissible light emission levels. The Ministry of Environment also prepared standards on public lighting in 2013. It plans to announce lighting equipment installation and control standards for advertisement lighting in 2014 and decorative lighting in 2015.

For more information, please contact us :
Public Relations Team  Kang YuRi (82-44-201-6063)   
Last modified : 2016-11-03 22:58

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