A man looks on a greenhous that was destroyed
© YonhapA man looks on a greenhous that was destroyed by a snowstorm in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, Friday.
As winter tightens its grip across the globe, South Korea has found itself in the throes of its most intense cold wave of the season. On December 22, 2023, the nation was plunged into a deep freeze, with temperatures plummeting to perilous lows and snow blanketing the landscape in a scene as disruptive as it was picturesque. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) recorded some of the season's harshest conditions, with mercury levels dropping below minus 20 degrees Celsius in areas of Gangwon Province and the nation's capital, Seoul, witnessing a chilling minus 14.7 degrees Celsius.

In an extraordinary turn of events, the frigid weather forced Jeju International Airport to suspend runway operations for over seven hours, leaving thousands of travelers in limbo as 286 flights were canceled. The heavy snowfall, which reached more than 30 centimeters on Jeju Island and up to 60 centimeters in western coastal regions, created an almost standstill condition, affecting daily life and mobility significantly.

The toll of the cold snap was not limited to air travel alone. Over 200 incidents of frozen and broken water meters, collapsed livestock sheds and greenhouses, and disruptions to passenger ship operations and national park access were reported. On the ground, the snow and ice precipitated a slew of traffic accidents, stranded vehicles, and injuries due to falls, casting a long shadow over public safety and transportation.