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8 Ways to Stay Warm during Winter in Korea

korean temperature, korean ondol floor warming controls, korean temperature controls, all-in-one temperature controls

The heat control in my apartment: it controls the heating in the floor and water

It’s been said that this is the worst winter Korea has ever seen.  It sure feels like it.  It’s so cold that the concrete at my work desk provides regular AC breezes through the soles of my shoes and to my feet. Not kidding. During the winter you’ve got to find ways to keep warm.

Here are 8 ways  to Stay Warm during Winter in Korea

1. Turn on my floor heater.

Mine only goes to 55 degrees Celcius (aka 122 degrees Farenheit)! But this can’t be accurate because I’m barely feeling 78 degrees. I’m still cold, so it might have to do with the output that it’s powering my ondol with.

Instead of radiator heaters, many Korean apartments, flats and jjimjilbangs have floor warming systems called ondols (온돌). Floors are heated from underneath and thus, heat is spread evenly throughout the house. However, sometimes the effect isn’t always as immediate or effective as a New York City radiator that makes a loud hissing noise (I speak from experience…).


2. Close the bathroom door.

typical korean bathroom, the bathroom in a korean apartment

The bathroom in my apartment in Daegu

Why is my bathroom the one icebox of my apartment?!

It’s so cold, I can put all my perishables in them and they’ll keep over the winter.

There’s always a  “cold draft” coming from my bathroom.  I felt it… draft. My hand Marco Polo’d it out to discover …

It’s coming from the ceramic tile!

korean bath slippers,

Korean bath slippers. You don’t want to be bare the cold tiles, while showering in Korea.

Yup. A summer tip for cooling down from the heat: just lay on or against your tile/concrete floors and walls. They’re excellent conduits of cold!

Thus, having them during the winter gives you the reverse benefit. You may experience a wind chill from them; meanwhile, best close that door.


3. Boil a pot of water.

Not the most healthy, but whenever I boil water, it helps heat up my apartment. All my windows start to sweat and I gradually get a little warmer.

Unfortunately, you have to be vigilant– keep watch that the pot doesn’t boil over or burn.

You don’t even need to have food in it…


4. Use your hairdryer for targeting cold body parts

I may not be the brightest lightbulb out there, but this is great for a quick warm-up of freezing-cold body parts.

The warmth you experience will outlast the silliness you feel.

Use it. It works!


5.  Buy some Korean winter hand warmers or Son nalo (선나러) .

Shake shake shake… you may be vigorously shaking this for a while, as if you’re pumping an obscene gesture.  Shake shake shake…

But once these babies warm up, they can last for hours! I bought them at lunchtime to wear them in my shoes (while desk-warming at my school). I forgot them in my jacket pocket when I went home and next day, found they could be revived for another 3-4 hours.


6. Wear a Korean mini blanket cape

Sometimes my students sit in class, dressed like they’re going to Where the Wild Things Are party. I get it. These mini blankets and furry animal capes with ears come out when winter gets cold  (watch Eat your Kimchi‘s video here). It’s warm.

My version is just a simple kiddie blanket (no ears) that I wrap around myself like a cape.


7. Sleep on the floor.

When Coco in Korea mentioned the Korean ondol and its sleep warming capabilities, I only half-laughed.

I’ve been spending more time on my floor also; eating and blogging from it.

Why all the floor-love?  Remember what I said about #1: the Korean system of heating their floors a.k.a ondol (온돌)?

No ‘Yo’  here. Just a bit of desperation.

As an eastern concept, it’s not half-crazy to camp out on your floor. Koreans do it at jjimjilbangs… even at home with a traditional style of bedding/mattress called a Yo ( article by Kimchi Mamas). Despite the Asian ease of lying on your floor for sleep,  for westerners its still uncomfortable.


8. Wear your winter jacket around the house… & to bed.

It’s not that my apartment’s gotten that cold, but if it did , wearing my winter jacket to bed is always an option. Since it’s not, I can use it as extra padding for my floor bed.

What are some ways you stay warm during winter in Korea?


  1. Farina Carr says:

    Hi Christine. I stumbled upon your blog while searching for more info on korean living for my brother and his family who are currently living there. It is winter now and coming from Malaysia where a lot of things are subsidised by the gov, it is rather a shock to them with the high cost of everything including the necessity like heat.

    My husband and I live in Southern CA so the winter is not really that cold but a few years ago when we lived not a mile from the beach, it got pretty cold. Our apt was old so the windows weren’t the double pane type so we could feel the breeze coming in. What we did to keep the cold from coming in was to cover all the windows with a huge plastic that we got from Home Depot and staple gun them around the windows. They weren’t pretty to look at but it saves us a lot of money during winter and sure keeps us warm.

    Another thing we did and still do even now is to use all things fleece. We only use fleece bedsheet and fleece pajamas in winter. My husband used to suffer from neck and back ache in winter before we use fleece bedsheets but they are gone eversince we started to use fleece bedsheet. Alternatively since bedsheets can be pricey, just put the fleece throw/blanket on the bed before you go to sleep. I believe they’re much cheaper than getting the whole set of fleece bedsheet.

    Stay warm!

  2. Haha it’s so funny I came across a link on your site about my old site (Coco In Korea)! 😀

  3. Trent says:

    Find a Korean lover

  4. Electric ondol says:

    Your heat controller shows 온돌(ondol).
    It means water temperature in boiler.
    That is stupid
    Keep the 실온(room temperature) at 25 degrees
    If u can, do not need any hair dryer.

  5. Annika says:

    @Christine: So they do REALLY work then? Great! I think I’ll have to give them a try. Thanks for the tip!!

  6. Annika says:

    Uuuuh yes, the one with the hair dryer. Been there, done that. There is nothing better than changing into sleeping clothes in a freezing room and heat your super fat winter socks with the hair dryer. When it was really really cold I even heated the bit of air between the beddings and me with it. That was Turkey. Now I am in Georgia and can’t sleep because of the heat (and mosquitos). An suggestions to that one? 🙂

    • @Annika: Ha ha… well, that’s an interesting change. But electric plug-in mosquito repellents usually help me sleep mosquito-free. I’ve used those in Korea and India for the summer!=)

  7. MsCathy says:

    Great tips to stay warm over there – I, too, wear my jacket indoors and when I go to bed even if I do feel slightly ridiculous. I was over in Europe during one of the most severe winters ever – Another tip if you drink? Drink shots of warm you from the inside out 😉 LOL! I love your blog 🙂

    Cathy Trails

  8. Joy says:

    featured on a recent post in my blog:


  9. Jacki says:

    I am so happy you posted about this!!! Definitely going to be putting these into action when I get there and FREEZE.

    • @Jacki: I’m glad. Hope you don’t actually have to use this! LOL. But Korea will be cold for sure. Just remember that public places (even indoor) aren’t heated, so pack layers. Good luck with your new job!

  10. Andrew says:

    I had to work over winter break in January and so they did something to the heating system so it couldn’t function at full capacity–I left the space heater on for 8 hours a day, always, but then some kids would come into the teacher room and leave the door open. They always leave the doors open.

    Really, school was worse than my apartment. Even though I couldn’t regulate my floor temperature I plugged up holes and used a space heater and survived the winter. At school the doors and windows wouldn’t seal well so there was always a breeze going through the long corridors making it SO COLD. I wore two thick jackets to school every day, along with sweaters and t-shirts. I’m a cold weather wimp but it was rough!

    I did visit jimjilbangs to warm up and they were amazing.

    Washing hands at school? I found ONE bathroom, across from the principal’s office that had warm water. That was the only place safe to wash my hands and ward off the inevitable frostbite. Oh, noes!

    Korea is a cold world. So cold.

  11. Sarah S says:

    Hello Everyone, I’m new on here and excited to be a part of the group!

  12. CB Saeji says:

    UNIQLO heattech

  13. Alana says:

    I have to tell you that I am in LOVE with your blog! I am a vegetarian as well and I share the same love that you have for Loving Hut. When I walked into this eating establishment one day I nearly dropped dead. Finding vegetarian dishes has been a struggle for me since I came to Korae four months ago.

  14. MaryAnne says:

    O- wrong link- this is the one that explains the freezingness here:

    Seriously, Shanghai is considered tropical so heating is officially not required!

  15. MaryAnne says:

    @Christine, I haven’t done a post yet on how I keep warm because I haven’t been wholly successful! My parents brought me thermal hiking underthings from the Mountain Equipment Coop (Oh, I love you hi-tech fibres!) and I wear thick felt slippers in the flat and a big woolly hat and big woolly mittens outside. My kids wear all of the above in class, because the uni classrooms are barely heated.

    My dad noted that the flat is so poorly insulated (like all flats around here- see my post on that: ) that he can feel the cold air blowing in through a dozen substantial gaps in the windows and doors. Good times! Our bath no longer runs hot hot water because the pipes run from the kitchen to the bathroom via chilled, uninsulated outside concrete. I’m wearing my pashmina wrap a lot and drinking a lot of hot tea!

  16. Gray says:

    Holy cow, your place is COLD if you’ve got to resort to all this stuff. I used to turn my oven on and once it got hot, open the door to heat the house. Not financially-friendly, but it helped. I like the electric blanket/hot water bottle ideas, but probably not together, LOL. I guess that’s one perk of owning my own place–I can crank my heat as high as I want to (and do).

    • @Gray: I e n v y you.

      @Koan Girl: Looks like the Asian school system and its teachers really battle it out during winter. Heard Japan is similar. Unfortunately, even tho the kids have their furry slippers on, it’s still not insulated to the kind of cold that comes from the concrete floors. Even if I wear my hiking shoes on (which I’ve been sneaking it in a couple of days), the cold works itself in from the floor up. It’s still a freezer in my shoes!

      Good luck on battling it out in China. Let’s see who freezes themselves to death first!

      @Alana: Thanks for reading. I think you meant to post on my Loving Hut post,but thanks for commenting all the same & welcome to Korea! Your eating challenge begins…now. 😉

      @Cedar Burrough: Thnx! You’re the 2nd person who’s mentioned good things about it.

  17. Barbara says:

    I have the same exact ondol! Throughout December I had it at 65-degrees and later received a bill at 98,000 won. I was shocked at the bill, but happy to be sizzling hot. What’s the lowest temp setting for your ondol? Mine will not go lower than 40-degrees.

    • @Barbara: 98,000 won?! oh my. I’m scared to see my bill for this month… I think it’s the same. I can’t go lower than 40 either! But my room doesn’t get sizzling tho. Sometimes I barely feel like it’s on.

  18. Laura in Cancun says:

    I love the sound of heated floors 🙂

    And those ear-blanket thingies for the kids are awesome!

  19. MaryAnne says:

    I’m totally in love with that Where The Wild Things Are cape! I want one for here in freezing Shanghai! My parents are visiting from Vancouver Island and tell me it’s so much colder here than there (in Canada!). At work, my students were wearing big furry bear slippers to class. You can buy plug-in hot water bottles with built in water-heaters from street vendors. Giant baked yams are popular street snacks sold out of oil drum ovens because they are wonderfully warm to hold.

    I wish we had floor heating. In our flat we only have a few wall-mounted heaters/coolers (don’t know the name) and a big standing one in the living room. We keep them set at around 25 degrees all the time to keep the flat from descending into refrigerator temperatures. Maybe I should invest in indoor/outdoor padded PJs like the grannies on our street…

    • @MaryAnne: Wow, plug-in hot water bottles? That’s cool! I want one of those. Also– indoor outdoor padded PJs? Wow, would love for you to do a post on how you keep warm.

      Sometimes I wonder if Shanghai is as “cutesy” as Korea. Afterall, it sounds like it’s definitely as cold!

  20. shotgunkorea says:

    Our electric bill is out of control, so we keep the floor at 19.5 degrees and wear those fluffy fleece pants all the time– it took me a while to decide to buy a pair, but for 10,000 won they’re totally worth it.

  21. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    Ooooh, how I would love having a floor heater here in our apt. Granted we live in California and at worst deal with 30 deg winter. But I’m a big weenie when it comes to cold temprerature 🙂

    • @Jill: True, tho you guys in Cali are working your way down to “actual” winter, these days! 30 degrees is nothing to sniffle at. Don’t worry about the weenie-ship. When I’m at home in Hawaii, my folks throw on the electric heater at 60 degrees!

  22. That’s amazing that you have to turn your ondol up so high. We usually set ours to 22 and that’s enough. We also don’t need to have it on for very long before it heats up the entire room. At night, we sometimes use a little space heater to warm up the loft, but we’re still using the summer blankets.

    I think the biggest change in how we’re approaching this winter is not making things too warm in the apartment. That way we’re ready for the cooler temperatures outside. That being said, some of the cleaning staff at school are still leaving the windows open all night and when I get in during the morning, it’s freeeeeeezing!

    One of my favorite things to do is leaving clothes on the floor to warm them up. It’s fantastic!

    • @Steve: What?! Are you a polar bear? 22 and summer blankets. Maybe your apt is well insulated then cause you’re in Seoul, which is even colder than Daegu! And yeah, these classrooms… someone always leaves a door open which I might sorta understand, but windows? As for leaving clothes on the floor to warm them… yes. It is pretty nice!

      @shotgunkorea: How did you know? Everytime I pass by a fleece pants vendor, my eye stretches and linger a little longer. They’re practical… and cute!

  23. 3gyupsal says:

    Excellent tips. You would be surprised at my furniture bill, it was a real pity about how many couches and kitchen tables I burned before I figured out how to turn on the heat in my place.

    But seriously, I took some practices that I have always done to stay warm in my place. At night I like to wear pajamas and a big terry cloth robe while watching T.V. under a blanket, that seems to work well.

    Another one is soup, specifically Korean rice cake soup. I don’t know what it is about this stuff but I had a few bowls of it this year for lunch, and then I would leave the restaurant feeling all hot and a little bothered by the fact that I was sweating in December. (Sorry, not something for vegetarians, the soup is usually made from a beef and or chicken broth with chunks of beef and sometimes bits of oyster. )

  24. The Lady in Red often prefers a flannel blanket to a more normal Western-style sheet. When laying in bed or otherwise relaxing, she’ll draw it in . Guessing it’s a good insulator.

    • @Chris: What’s up with that, C– are you not a good insulator?! LOL. But flannel blankets… mmm. I feel warm just thinking of it. Have one that I keep at work.

  25. Peter says:

    Christine, you totally forgot to mention the electric heater and pad/blanket. With both of these you never have to worry about being cold in your apartment! also, electricity is much cheaper than gas (as long as you don’t go over 500KWH per month) 🙂

    • @Peter: ha ha.. I was too cheap to get an electric heater bc I seriously didn’t think it’d get this cold. And (gasp!) you’re right about gas being more expensive than electric!!! I guess I wasn’t so smart with the boiling pot idea… Thanks for enlightening me!

  26. julia says:

    1) drink lots of hot tea and hot water, never cold drinks except for beer.
    2) wear warm wooly socks and scarves at all times. fingerless gloves can be good for desk working.
    3) put vinyl sheeting up over your windows. it’s super cheap from a hardware store, and will cut down on the drafts and lower your heating bill. mine was 8,000 won.
    4) i cannot BELIEVE your heat goes up to 78ºF! i keep mine on high and it never goes past 64º! consider yourself very lucky. 🙂

    • @Julia: all great tips! Damn, you really invested. Vinyl sheeting huh? That’s an awesome one cause glass is a super conduit as well!

      I do your #2 sometimes. When my mom was deskwarming with me, she definitely used them when playing on the computer in our office. As for heating– noo… mine may seem to go high– stuck at 50deg C? BUT it totally doesn’t feel like that. Not in a mile.

  27. Breda says:

    9) jjigae
    10) whisky

  28. Odysseus says:

    Hahaha! These are the VERY things I do. #4 especially cracked me up because I have that exact same purple hairdryer and when my ondol floor heat stopped working for a couple of days, I used that hairdryer to warm myself before going to bed — with #8, wearing my winter coat to bed.

    • @Odysseus: I’m glad you’re a club member too! I suspect there must be a whole handful of us that are on parallel streams with the work-arounds. The smart peeps would just go out and get an electric heater! Ha ha… Still, can’t diss that hair dryer– it’s a life saver!

  29. @zatiealisabri: Yes, Family Marts should have them! They should definitely avail during winter. So many of my kids had them. I also get them at the stationary store near my school.

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