SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's environment minister said Wednesday that his ministry will push for various cooperative projects with North Korea to better protect the environment on the Korean Peninsula.

Minister Cho Myung-rae, who took office in early November, said that his ministry will set up a plan to preserve the two Koreas' environment based on inter-Korean research into the peninsula's atmosphere, rivers, flora and fauna.

"I have high hopes for inter-Korean cooperation on the environment. If the conditions become ripe, my ministry will seek joint environmental research and studies with North Korea on air, water and nature," Cho said in an interview with Yonhap News.

But he raised concern that North Korea may suffer environmental problems similar to those experienced by South Korea in the 1960s if cross-border cooperation leans excessively towards the economy.

Cho assumed his post on Nov. 9 after serving as a Dankook University professor in urban and regional planning and president of the Korean Environment Institute.

Cho said that it is difficult to map out countermeasures against harmful fine dust blowing into the Korean Peninsula from China due to insufficient studies on the course and sources of Chinese fine dust.

"Statistically, it is true that our country has been affected by Chinese fine dust. The portion of foreign fine dust particles in South Korean air ranges from 30 to 60 percent depending on its density. But there is not enough research on the sources and movement routes of the foreign fine dust blowing into the Korean Peninsula," said the minister.

He then proposed that South Korea, Japan and the United States conduct joint research on cross-border air pollution in Northeast Asia, saying it is difficult for Seoul and Beijing to resolve bilateral environmental problems due to their severe power imbalance.

Source: Yonhap News Agency