Winter in South Korea is between December and the end of February, although climate changes throughout the world have also affected South Korea’s Winter season which has become warmer and shorter. Traditional South Korean Winter’s brought a lot of snow but these days the snow melts quite quickly and creates ice rather than layers of snow on the streets.
Another characteristic of Korean Winter is that it gets very very dry so humidifiers and hand/lip creams are a must. Although the temperature can dip lower than -20°C (-4°F), fortunately cold weather lasts for only about three days and is followed by four days of warmer weather. This cycle is the norm in winter and it, along with sunshiny days and bright blue skies makes the Korean winter more tolerable.
Here are some essential items to help you get through the Korean Winter.
You can purchase these at most convenience stores, supermarkets or drugstore/pharmacies.
These are inexpensive and come in all shapes and sizes (small ones to put in your pocket, big ones with a stick on side so you can stick it on the back of your sweater, insole shaped ones to keep your feet warm). They are literally little packs that once opened and shaken become hot. They last a few hours and are disposable after use.
Thermal underwear may sound like something only your grandparents wear or you take to a ski trip. But these are going to be your best friend during the Winter months in Korea. Just one layer underneath your clothes and it will change your Winter experience tremendously. Although these can be bought in a variety of places, Uniqlo is known for their heat-tech range which includes a variety of styles for women, men and children for an affordable price.
A Winter must is the ondol, a Korean floor heating system where a series of pipes lie beneath the floor and hot water runs through the pipes making the floor warm. Most Korean houses and apartments have an ondol as opposed to a heater. Ondol has a great impact on Korean life-style. Because the floor is so warm, people naturally sit on the warm floor rather than on colder chairs. Koreans thus sit, eat, associate, and sleep on the floor. To keep the floor even warmer, they sometimes cover it with a thick bed quilt called ibul. When family members come in from outside, they put their cold legs under the bed quilt to enjoy the comfortable warmth together—a real bonding experience!