Koreans turn to ice vests and hot soup in record Seoul heat

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Image caption Here’s one way to cool off

South Korea’s capital city of Seoul has recorded its hottest ever temperature at 39C (102F).

More than 28 people have died and 2,266 have suffered heat-related conditions as a result of a sweltering heatwave, according to authorities.

Some are beating the heat in pools and fountains, while others have turned to more creative methods – including “ice vests” – in an attempt to cool down.

The hot weather is set to continue throughout the week.

President Moon Jae-in has called for the heatwave to be declared a form of natural disaster, a move that would allow victims to claim compensation.

The government has also set aside 6bn won ($5.3m; £4m) for city and provincial governments to deal with the effects of the weather.

Amid the rising mercury, Seoul’s Mayor Park Won-soon has raised eyebrows by trading his spacious official residence for the sort of tiny high-rise apartment often lived in by people on lower incomes, in a bid to show empathy and that he understands what people are experiencing.

Critics have called the mayor’s actions a political gimmick, saying he is experiencing poverty from a position of privilege.

‘Ice vests’ and neck fans

Handheld electric fans are one of the most popular items in Korea this summer, but other less common items like “ice vests” (padded vests full of ice cubes or a cooling gel) and portable “neck fans” have also cropped up.

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Many have flocked to public pools and beaches across the country for more instant relief.

And for those who choose to stay in Seoul, fountains around the city are spraying out water to help people keep cool.

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Could hot soup cool you down?

Drinking hot soup in warm weather might not make sense to you, but it’s common for South Koreans to line up for a steaming bowl of chicken and ginseng soup on the hottest days of the year.

The “Samgyetang” soup is eaten to boost stamina, and according to one restaurant owner the logic behind it is to “fight fire with fire”.

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“When it’s too hot, we eat cold things. Our stomach gets colder but the rest of us stays hot. So we have to make it the same temperature,” Choi Mi-hee told Vice magazine.

If none of those tactics work, at least there’s this T-shirt so others know to mind their heatwave manners.

Twitter post by @TheJihyeLee: Her shirt says, "don't bump into me, it's hot" Image Copyright @TheJihyeLee@TheJihyeLee

Who’s winning and losing because of the heat?

Winning – air-conditioned malls

The Lotte World Mall in eastern Seoul said its sales in July had risen 12% compared with the previous month.

Losing – fast-food delivery drivers

Delivery driver Park Jung-hoon says people like him get paid around 400 won ($0.36, $0.27) per delivery, and is calling for a 100 won raise to “help delivery guys feel respected and appreciated.”

“More people order food when it gets hotter because [they] don’t want to go anywhere,” he told news outlet SBS. “I drive on hot asphalt roads. I can’t wear a mask because it’s too hot, and when I drive on a motorcycle the air is still so hot.”

Losing – North Korea

Temperatures in North Korea hit 37C last week – almost as hot as in the South.

With little air-conditioning available, residents are using reservoirs, valleys and rivers to cool off, according to sources quoted by NK News.

Dishes like cold buckwheat noodles and ice-cream are rising in popularity. And dog meat soups are getting a boost in Pyongyang for similar reasons to hot chicken soup in South Korea – to beat the heat with more heat.

Both winning and losing – Seoul’s zoo animals

Animals from cold climate habitats are vulnerable to the soaring temperatures – but their keepers are working hard to help them out.

In Seoul’s Everland Amusement and Animal Park, a 23-year-old polar bear named Tongki was given fish in ice blocks.

Image copyrightAFP

… And this penguin had a ball with a giant ice sphere.

Image copyrightAFP

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