8 Ways to Stay Warm during Winter in Korea

Last Updated on January 18, 2011 by Christine Kaaloa

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.

SAM 4424
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!

SAM 4425


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.

SAM 4412


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)?

SAM 4426No ‘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?

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