07.22 Mon


Stay low to get warm

Korean way of keeping warm
Jan 27,2003
The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Mr. Morris,who wrote to us from Seoul:

Q. Mr. Morris:
I have noticed that in cold weather, entrance doors to many large apartment and office buildings remain open; there are no mechanisms to force such entrance doors to close. Therefore, the lobbies near the elevators and stairwells are almost as cold as the outdoors. I’ve noticed, however, that doors inside the building do have mechanisms that force the doors to close.

Is there any cultural reason for this arrangement?

It seems to me that less heat would be needed in the inner rooms if the entrance doors to the buildings were closed.

On cold days, Westerners and Koreans heat their indoor space differently: while Westerners keep the air warm, Koreans like their floor hot.

This habit goes way back. Traditional Korean homes or hanok contain a heated floor or ondol. But the rest of the house, not to mention the outdoor bathroom, is kept cold.

The custom is related to Korea’s impoverished past when energy was scarce and expensive. People thought that heating the entire home would be costly and wasteful. Even today, energy-conscious Koreans find Western-style heating unnecessary and simply prefer to stay close to a piping hot heat source while never minding about the rest of the area being very cold.

When Koreans moved into Western-style homes and buildings, they brought their old habit along.
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