By Han Sang-hee
The grueling cold has been the talk of the town and it turns out this isn't just a feeling people get whenever winter comes. In fact, the weather during January was the coldest in nearly five decades, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), Monday.
The average temperature during January in Seoul recorded minus 7.1 degrees Celsius, the lowest since 1963, when it hit minus 9.1 degrees. The lowest daily temperatures averaged minus 13.6 degrees, while the average of the highest was minus 5.7 degrees.
The KMA said the daily highs hit minus 3.6 degrees on average, the lowest since 1963 (minus 4.8 degrees), while the morning lows recorded minus 10.5 degrees, the lowest since 1981 (minus 10.8 degrees).
According to the agency, there were 18 days when the mercury was below minus 10 degrees, which also followed a record of 25 days in 1963. "The cold has continued because of the so-called 'blocking effect.' With a northwestern air current pushing cold winds to Korea and warmer currents from the lower latitudes surrounding the peninsula, the cold front has had all its exits blocked," said Kim Ji-young from the weather forecast department at the KMA.
The agency forecast the chill will die down a bit starting this month. The continuous cold spell has made it hard for those who are looking into taking trips and enjoy their time during the Lunar New Year holiday.
According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Monday, some 220,000 Koreans will be leaving the country during the holidays from Jan. 2 to 6.
This is a 9.2 percent jump from last year — travelers visiting countries with warmer climates including southeast nations have risen to 18.6 percent, while tourists leaving for the Americas and European countries have dropped by 20 percent and 4 percent respectively. "It seems that travelers are going to southeastern and Oceania countries to avoid the chilly weather," said an official from the ministry.