Russian offers advice on enduring Korea’s winters

Rushan Ziatdinov Rushan Ziatdinov (www.ziatdinov-lab.com) is a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Keimyung University in Daegu.

Last year, The Korea Times published an article in which Canadians gave advice on how to stay warm during South Korean winters. I would agree that South Korea has mild, short winters. As a person who lived in Russia for about 30 years, I experienced cold winters and hot summers with temperatures ranging from about minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius.

What to wear

The most common advice from Canadians was to dress in layers. Layers are actually very helpful because you can easily take off a few things if it’s uncomfortable, and add more if it’s cold. In Russia, layering wool sweaters under fur coats or down jackets is a common practice, and the choice of materials has a significant impact on comfort and warmth.

The Canadians also suggested wearing long underwear or tights. In addition, there is a fleece thermal undergarment designed for dynamic low-temperature missions. Some models feature zippers with a urethane coating to increase water and wind resistance and minimize heat loss.

In extremely cold conditions, a neck gaiter or balaclava can provide extra protection for the neck, face and ears. You can also protect your ears with winter (electrically heated) earmuffs, such as those with a builtin radio or music player and Bluetooth wireless technology.

People can also explore the option of heated clothing, such as heated jackets, vests or gloves, especially if you’re going to be out in the cold for long periods of time. Surprisingly, there are even heated hats, socks, insoles, scarves, golf and ski wear, as well as electric hand warmers.

Footwear and walking on ice

People in Russia wear special winter boots with natural or faux fur inside. In the past, I have seen unti (unti means footwear in the Evenki language) made of dog fur. Now, there are many new and modern faux furs that can be used to design unti, which are much better for winter than the Ugg boots I saw in South Korea.

There are various other types of winter boots, including valenki (traditional felt boots) that are made of sheep’s wool. Some models of valenki are equipped with rubber soles for better traction on wet and slushy surfaces during the spring thaw.

In Russia, roads and sidewalks are treated with salt or a special solution to prevent slipping. These solutions can sometimes be harmful to car surfaces and tires, but without them, the number of accidents would increase exponentially.

Slipping on ice is a prevalent winter hazard in Russia, which can be mitigated by using footwear equipped with non-slip grips or ice cleats. I observe that South Koreans often wear sneakers and sometimes even sleepers in winter, which is not common in Russia.

Driving in winter

There are two types of tires in Russia: summer and winter. Winter tires have small cuts and deeper grooves in the tread known as sipes, as well as a softer rubber compound. Alternatively, tires may be fitted with special snow chains or tire socks.

Unlike South Korea, where winter windshields are uncommon, people in Russia routinely install them to protect their vehicles’ engines from the harsh effects of frigid winds.

Other suggestions include carrying emergency supplies (blanket, flashlight, etc.), checking tire pressure regularly (cold temperatures can cause tire pressure to drop), practicing controlled sliding in a safe area to better understand how your car responds in slippery conditions, using lower gears on hills to control speed, heated side mirrors, engine block heaters, winter windshield washer fluid and a portable car battery jump starter.

Home heating

South Korean buildings are not insulated in the same way as buildings in cold Russia. However, South Korea has a wonderful underfloor heating system called ondol, which is rooted in traditional Korean architecture. To save money, a smart thermostat can be used to regulate the heating more efficiently. Area rugs on bare floors can add an extra layer of insulation and warmth.

Homes can be better prepared for winter by installing reflective foam wall insulation shields and window insulation kits. Walls and windows can be checked for cracks or gaps with thermal imagers and sealed with caulk or weather stripping to prevent heat loss.

Draft excluders or door snakes can be used for doors to prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping. Windows can be insulated with special materials, and the cheapest way is to use polyethylene air bubble sheets.

Solar window film, thermal curtains, and smart glass can help improve warmth and energy efficiency by trapping heat, reducing heat loss and blocking harmful UV rays.

Coping with humidity level

The human body relies on evaporative cooling to regulate temperature, and when humidity is high, this cooling process is less efficient. This is why high humidity can make people feel colder than in drier conditions, even when the air temperature is the same or slightly higher.

It is possible to improve the ventilation system at home to ensure better air circulation and reduce stagnant, humid air. Using natural dehumidifiers, such as moisture-absorbing materials like silica gel packets, bamboo charcoal bags or activated charcoal in areas prone to moisture can help. Some houseplants known for their ability to absorb excess moisture, such as spider plants, peace lilies or Boston ferns, can also be used.

Outdoor activity and food

Winter is a wonderful time for various outdoor activities, especially for children. Russians, similar to Canadians, love to play ice hockey. Unfortunately, hockey is not very popular among the masses in South Korea.

Also, it is good to take continuous short breaks during long outdoor activities to warm up in a sheltered place and drink hot tea or eat hot soup or stew. It’s also a good idea to consume fatty fish, root vegetables, meats, bread and cereals, pickled and fermented foods, nuts and dried fruit, dairy products and energy-boosting sweets in cold temperatures.






The Korea Times Co.