The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. I hate to say it, but Korean winter is here. Here are some snaps from last year, from the times I just about managed to leave my apartment.

Whenever I ask my students what weather is typical of the winter season, they all shout out in unison, “SNOW!” – so it’s no surprise that you will find some of the white stuff on the mountains of Korea. Although, it is debatable whether the snow is actually real (I saw a lot of suspicious looking machinery on the slopes), but as long as I can create the obligatory snow angel, who cares? If you fancy skiing, snowboarding, or making snow angels, sign up for one of the trips this season. They’re definitely worth it.

“Oh Korea” were the exact words I used upon entering a cat café for the first time. If such an establishment existed at home all it would take would be a visit from the environmental health department to have the place shut down quicker than you can say annyeonghaseyo. Besides, I’m a dog person. That aside, the café was warm, cozy and strangely calming, which are all the ingredients necessary to enjoy a lazy winter afternoon.

Whenever I think of winter in Korea, I always think of the rather oversized jackets my students wear to school. It’s as if the fabric is sewn into their skin seeing as the thought of removing them seems an impossible task upon entering the classroom. “Teacher, classroom hot” is a sentence that often rings in my ears. To to which I reply, “Have you thought about removing your coat!?”.

Winter has all the best celebrations; from Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Lunar New Year, which means lots and lots of firework displays. Nice-uh!

What to do for my winter vacation this year? I could stay in my apartment, wrapped up in my duvet, rocking back and forth, or I could go somewhere HOT. Tough choice, but as you can see from the photo above, I took the plunge (quite literally) into the crystal blue waters surrounding Thailand. It was nice to come back to Korea with a golden glow, much to the disgust of my co-teachers. Insert a lot of “I envy you” comments stated through gritted teeth.

There is nothing better then walking down a street in Korea and feeling a slight rumble of the stomach that gives you the perfect excuse to clog your arteries full of fried goodness. Plus, in the winter it seems to be compulsory to be outdoors with some form of street food dangling out of your mouth.

It is often the case that we go through life and take things for granted. The only reason we are able to live and teach in Korea is because of where we were born. So, the time I was asked to participate in a photography project to raise awareness of a shanty town located just outside Gangnam was a stark reminder that not all Koreans live a modest lifestyle. The winter is obviously a difficult time for the residents who occupy these makeshift houses. They require support from the wider community to keep warm during the colder months, which we helped achieve.

One thing you will find in abundance in Korea during the winter months is an almost endless supply of clothing to suit your every need. I have a woolly hat for almost every occasion, a scarf collection representing all the colours of the rainbow, and of course a pair of Angry Birds gloves. The moral of the story is to wrap up warm before venturing out. You don’t to get sick and have to wear one of those Hello Kitty facemasks. Or do you?

If there is one saving grace of the Korean winter, then it would have to be the sunrise and sunsets. For some scientific reason that I have no clue about, the sun’s colours seems to intensify the colder it is. I decided to venture up Seoul Tower during a very cold day and the picture above is what was waiting for me when I reached the top.

What are your favourite things about winter in Korea? What are the worst things? See ours in this post.

Words and Photos by Matthew Leavesley. Follow him on Instagram under the username .

See more photoessays about Korea by clicking here.


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