December 26, 2023
SEOUL – A canopy of white covered the capital city of Seoul on Christmas morning, making it a white Christmas for the first time since 2015.
In Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, while there were several pedestrians hurrying to get indoors to escape the snow, there were also some taking photos of the winter scenery.
“It really feels like Christmas today,” said 25-year-old Baek Ji-yoon. “Christmas is one of my favorite holidays of the year because of its general atmosphere, but the snow is making it even more special. It’s definitely going to be a holiday that I’ll remember in the future.”
Fifty-three-year-old Jang Sun-ju also told The Korea Herald that Christmas feels “extra prettier this year.”
“The trees look so pretty today with the snow sitting on top of them. Other people seem to think so too, because I saw many people taking photos with the trees,” Jang said, adding, “Who needs indoor Christmas trees with real outdoor trees looking like this?”
Snowfall began at midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Seoul. On Christmas morning, 2.1 centimeters of snow had fallen in Seoul, with 2 to 7 cm more predicted to fall later until the afternoon in the capital city, as well as Incheon and in the southern parts of Gyeonggi Province.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government issued an emergency level 1 alert for snow removal from 10 p.m. on Saturday, with 1 to 3 centimeters of snow falling at around 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
Since issuing the snow removal watch, 4,635 emergency workers from the city government, local governments and related organizations were placed on standby with 1,168 pieces of snow removal equipment.
Though a heavy snow watch was issued in Seoul as of 4:30 a.m. Monday, it was lifted between 10 to 11 a.m. as precipitation gradually dissipated from the low-pressure trough, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.
Seoul’s temperatures on Christmas were higher compared to over the past few days, with morning lows reaching between minus 9 degrees Celsius and 2 C, and highs ranging between 1 C to 7 C, similar to average temperatures in previous years.
People were out in the city, enjoying the Christmas festivities.
Several cathedrals and churches around the city took part in celebrating Christmas Day. At midnight and noon, a Christmas Mass took place at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul. Yoido Full Gospel Church, a megachurch in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district, also conducted six Christmas services to commemorate the holiday.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government in November announced its plan to launch Seoul Winter Festa, a large-scale network of winter festivals that runs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 21, 2024. The 38-day festival includes festivities such as a Christmas market selling various holiday goods and foods set up in Gwanghwamun Square, as well as an ice skating rink in front of Seoul Plaza near Seoul City Hall.
“It’s quite cold, but it’s not unbearable like last week,” said 35-year-old Kim Jin-hyeok. “I’m going to enjoy the Christmas market with my family and possibly teach my daughter ice skating near City Hall.”
On Christmas Day, pedestrians like Kim were seen around the district, pausing to take a look around the Christmas market or lining up to borrow ice skating gear near the skating rink.
Simultaneously, the Seoul Metropolitan Government placed a heightened emphasis on safety management in key downtown areas, anticipating crowded conditions.
In anticipation of potential risks, the city bolstered its emergency staff to evaluate and respond to any critical situations promptly. CCTV was being used to monitor crowds in progress and send alerts in the event of overcrowding.
For six major areas expecting crowds, including Myeong-dong and Itaewon, over 1,000 personnel — including officials from local districts, police, fire authorities and other relevant agencies — were deployed to manage the sites.