Record cold wave wreaking havoc in South Korea

A snowplough clearing snow on a runway at Jeju International Airport, after the island was hit with heavy snowfall, on Jan 11, 2018.
A snowplough clearing snow on a runway at Jeju International Airport, after the island was hit with heavy snowfall, on Jan 11, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Extreme cold gripped South Korea on Thursday (Jan 11) - with a wind chill of minus 16 deg C in Seoul in the morning - and it is forecast to reach its peak on Friday, according to the country's weather agency.

Thursday's temperatures across the country hovered around minus 10 deg C in general, marking the coldest temperature this year.

Runways at Jeju Airport were closed earlier in the day due to heavy snowfall, suspending international flights until 11am, according to the Korea Airports Corp.

The country's power use soared in the morning amid a spike in heating demand, prompting Korea Power Exchange to order local companies to cut their power use as part of efforts to stabilise the level of electricity reserve.

Lows dropped to minus 15 deg C in Chuncheon, minus 13 deg C in Seoul, minus 12 deg C in Daejeon, minus 7 deg C in Gwangju and minus 6 deg C in the southern port city of Busan.

Frigid conditions have gripped most parts of South Korea and are expected to last most of the week, while daytime temperatures remained around minus 7 deg C in the capital city, minus 5 deg C in Jeonju and minus 3 deg C in Daegu.

The coldest temperatures recorded this winter so far were on Dec 12 and 13 last year, when morning lows dropped to minus 18.8 deg C and up to some 3 deg C in the daytime.

Wind-driven snow fell in South Chungcheong Province, the Jeolla provinces and Jeju, where extreme snowfall warnings are currently in place.

Over 30cm of snow fell in some parts of Jeju, and over 10cm in some parts on the western coast of the peninsula, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The weather agency has forecast that the frigid weather would peak on Friday and ease from next week.

The cold weather is related to a large area of high pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere near Alaska, driving the cold Arctic air pool to the country, the weather agency said.

Forecasters warned of frost bite and hypothermia risks, urging people to take necessary precautions when engaging in outside activities.