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South Korean minister dismisses 5G health and environmental concerns

Image credit: Anekoho | Dreamstime.com

Concerns about possible health and environmental effects caused by 5G networks are “completely groundless”, according to a senior South Korean government official.

The country's newly appointed minister for science and ICT, Ki-Young Choi, made the remark at a parliamentary inspection for the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee, held at the National Assembly in the capital Seoul.

Choi, who is also an artificial intelligence and semiconductor expert, dismissed claims that 5G electromagnetic waves could bring about potential dangers for people’s health and the environment. He also called for more efforts to raise public awareness through public relations measures.

5G services have been met with criticism in both South Korea and some other countries, over potential dangers of the technology.

Echoing Choi’s remarks, the UK’s digital minister Matt Warman noted that the superfast 5G mobile signals are no more dangerous than “talcum powder and pickled vegetables”, citing authoritative reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

In China, for example, 5G base stations have a radiation standard of fewer than 40 microwatts (µW) per square centimetre – lower than the average radiation of home appliances like hair dryers (100µW cm2) and Wi-Fi routers (60µW cm2).

Furthermore, the radio waves generated by wireless networks are less energetic than even the visible light we experience every day, according to experts.

Olaf Swantee, CEO of Swiss telecom operator Sunrise, said 5G is actually “a protective force for our environment”, as it can help cut carbon emissions and the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, as well as reduce the amount of waste the society generates.

On the issue of health, back in May, Public Health England’s (PHE’s) Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) said in a statement: “A considerable amount of research has been carried out on radio waves and we anticipate no negative effects on public health. 

“While a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves is possible when 5G is added to the existing network, the overall exposure is expected to remain low and well within the guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). 

“ICNIRP guidelines apply up to 300 GHz, well beyond the maximum (few tens of GHz) frequencies under discussion for 5G.” 

South Korea is the first country to have commercially launched 5G services, hoping to spur breakthroughs in various fields such as smart cities, autonomous cars and artificial intelligence.

During the parliamentary inspection, Choi also called for stronger incentives for private investments in 5G networks through expanding tax deduction rates, in order to secure the country’s competitiveness in the global 5G race.

A Reuters report published back in June found that a South Korean telecommunications provider has launched the next-generation mobile network in a community based in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea.

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