Korea is a country of extremes and the weather is no exception. While the winters drop well into the negatives, summer temperatures are regularly in the 30s. Not only that, but the humidity is high enough to make you sweat even while standing still. If that weren’t enough, Korean summer also delivers monsoons, which provide some relief from the heat but pour down heavy rain, sometimes for days.
Although many of us are staying home anyway due to coronavirus, here are some tips for dealing with the harsh weather.
Summer months: The weather starts getting hot in May, but the worst of the summer is in July and August. Temperatures will average in the high 20s and will reach highs in the mid-30s. The real difficulty comes with the humidity, averaging in the high 70% range.
Monsoon season: The monsoon season (장마) is mostly in July, but you can expect intermittent rain throughout the summer months. One nice thing about the rain is that it will clear out the air of fine dust, so it at least comes with some relief. However, the rain can be extremely strong and can last for days on end. Be aware that the local government may put up security tape to stop people from walking next to rivers and streams that show signs of flooding.
Visit some local rivers or shady spots, or go out to the mountains and find a valley. As long as you find somewhere with a bit of shade, you should be able to avoid the worst of the heat.
Take advantage of air conditioning in department stores/cafes. Almost all stores have the air conditioning on full blast, so you can walk around indoors to take a break from the heat outside. The air conditioning inside can sometimes be too cold though, so you might end up needing to carry around an extra layer of clothing if you are sensitive to temperature shifts.
If you are looking for food to cool you down, some Korean classics are Nengmyeon (cold noodle soup), and Bingsu (shaved ice). You can also find ice creams in freezers at almost every convenience store. Alternatively, you could go the complete opposite and eat something extremely spicy (fighting fire with fire/이열치열).
Consider buying a portable fan. These are small fans that are small enough to be carried in your bags and lightweight. They are extremely popular in Korea and every summer, when the heat outside is unbearable, you can see people walking around with them. They are fairly cheap and offer some relief while outside in the sun. You can get them in all colours, with plenty of different character designs.
Be aware that everyone in Korea has holidays at the same time, so visiting touristy areas might not be the best idea during these busy periods.
Written by Ewan Smith