Life in Korea: beating the heat

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UPDATED 12 July 2010 to include more information about ‘Hippo Packs’.

Welcome to summer, Korea style. It’s called 장마철 (rainy season), although you might call it the rainy season, the monsoon season, or that *#@%! hot season. Whatever you call it, there are more than a few ways to beat the heat.

Step one: turn off the heat. If your apartment has ondol heating (and virtually every Korean apartment does), there may be a switch to go from ‘winter’ mode to ‘summer’ mode. In the former (겨울, or winter), the ondol system turns on the hot water and heats up the floor; in the latter (여름, or summer), the ondol system only heats up the water.


UPDATED 12 July 2010 to include more information about ‘Hippo Packs’.

Welcome to summer, Korea style. It’s called 장마철 (rainy season), although you might call it the rainy season, the monsoon season, or that *#@%! hot season. Whatever you call it, there are more than a few ways to beat the heat.

Step one: turn off the heat. If your apartment has ondol heating (and virtually every Korean apartment does), there may be a switch to go from ‘winter’ mode to ‘summer’ mode. In the former (겨울, or winter), the ondol system turns on the hot water and heats up the floor; in the latter (여름, or summer), the ondol system only heats up the water.

Step two: reduce the humidity. That old saying about heat and humidity is especially true during 장마철. The solution: the oddly-named ‘Hippo Packs’. Used to absorb water in the air, these one-time-use boxes are available at any grocery store:

They’re called hippo packs because there’s a picture of a hippo on the front. The actual Korean on it is 물먹는하마 – they’re sold in packs of 3 or larger, are one-time use, and are usually pretty cheap. My local grocery store has a 3-pack for less than 4,000 won. Look for a plastic container half-filled with powder with a colored lid. While they are for one-time use (and then thrown away in normal trash), they last anywhere from a couple weeks to months, depending on the humidity level. Put one in every room – and perhaps one in your cupboards to keep food from getting too humid.

Step three: bring on the cool. Whether you prefer fans or air conditioners, the point is to spread the coolness through your abode. Department stores have plenty of fans for sale, although hopefully your apartment has A/C.

Step four: bring on the ice.빙수, that is. Whether you like shaved ice with strawberry syrup, ice cream, or some 팥빙수 (literally, red bean ice shaving), now is the time to enjoy. The versions you’ll find around Korea are far more elaborate, often with ice cream and fruit as well. If that sounds too sweet, ZenKimchi has 10 food-related ideas to beat the heat – not all are enjoyed cold, but all can help you beat the heat.

Readers, how do you handle Korea’s most distinctive season?

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This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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