A sleepy Korean city, unprepared for a swift winter storm.
When people from the States think of winter in Asia, they’ll say China but conjure up mental images of Japan. Snow covered pagodas amid a legion of pines, or steaming hot springs defying the season. However between these two places is a mountainous peninsula jutting into the sea. South Korea isn’t famous for much, sans Gangnam Style, and certainly isn’t famous for winter. As a Chicagoan I often joke about the ‘mildness’ of the season here, especially in the company of those from warmer climates (like Africa). Sitting at a latitude of around 36’N it is, for American readers, about the same place as Nashville, or for European readers, Sicily. So everyone, including myself was surprised when we got shellacked a few weeks ago with a big winter storm. It was the worst kind, wet and windy. My sleepy city was unprepared for winter’s wrath and the lack of plows and road salt crippled transportation of any kind. The roads slowed to a standstill, the slush on the sidewalks froze as temperatures dropped, and all over everyone was scurrying to get out of the weather.
So surprised were its denizens that it became more akin to a novelty, and one that (as I predicted) would quickly wear off once they realized they would have to deal with the results over the next several weeks. For now though they were happy enough, cheerfully discussing their mutual amazement. Shopkeepers tirelessly sought to stem the tide of snow through shoveling and sweeping, and students shaped the white power into weaponry designed for the destruction of their peers. Others were huddled under umbrellas bracing themselves against the winds, shivering people muttered 추워 (so cold) cursed the cold winter weather. Either way, pleasant or un, it was a surprise.