Vietnamese people struggle in record cold in Japan and Korea

Many Vietnamese families in South Korea and Japan suffered when water pipes froze, heating costs skyrocketed amid the record-breaking cold that hit Northeast Asia.

Northeast Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, have suffered a record cold spell since last week. The temperature dropped to the lowest level in a decade, combined with snowstorms, causing traffic disturbances and greatly affecting people’s lives.

“The snowstorm caused many flights to be canceled, vehicles always had to turn on their lights and move at a very slow speed, when visibility was less than one meter,” said Nguyen Thi Bich Ngan, a 28-year-old interpreter living in Sapporo city. Japan’s northernmost province Hokkaido, told VnExpress.

Traffic across Japan fell into chaos last week, when extreme cold weather hit, sending 46 out of 47 prefectures to record sub-zero temperatures on January 25. Not only the aviation industry was affected, many Shinkansen bullet trains and local trains were also disrupted.

The cold snap was made worse by high winds. The meteorological agency in Rausu, Hokkaido, at times recorded wind speeds of more than 130 km/h. “Very cold, snow with high winds forming blizzards, the temperature is always below -10 degrees Celsius,” Ngan said.

In Nara Prefecture, southern Japan, Quynh, a 32-year-old office worker, said her area doesn’t usually snow in winter, but this year’s unusual cold caused up to two weeks of snowfall, making all activities movement becomes more difficult.

“I usually go to work early by bicycle, but the frozen road is very slippery, the vehicles have to go slowly,” said Quynh, who has worked in Nara for eight years.

People in Sapporo, Hokkaido, walk under the snow on January 26.  Photo: AFP.

People in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan walk in the snow on January 26. Photo: AFP.

Unusually cold combined with high winds can easily cause thermal shock, forcing Quynh to regularly turn on the heater, causing high energy bills. The cost of heating skyrocketed not only because of the prolonged cold, but because of the decision to raise prices from the Japanese government.

Hai, a 24-year-old student in Saitama, Japan, also has to pay double or even triple the cost of gas for heating, even though he is alone. “The gas bill in the fall peaks at around 4,000 yen ($31). But in the winter, no matter how much I save, the bill is never less than 10,000 yen,” Hai said.

He explained that many hostels in rural Japan are built with very thin plaster walls, poorly insulated, so the temperature in the house is always very cold, it is impossible not to use the heater. To cope with the record-breaking cold, Hai closed all the windows, leaving “no light in the house”, while increasing the purchase of hot and spicy foods.

Quynh also had to apply temporary anti-cold measures such as sticking insulating silver foam on the glass doors, spreading under the carpet, placing a small-capacity heater in front of the bathroom door to avoid thermal shock.

To save money, she takes advantage of drying her freshly washed clothes when she turns on the heater while sleeping, adjusting the refrigerator temperature not too low because “the freshness of food is not affected much in this season”.

A long line of trucks line up on the Shin-meishin expressway in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture, January 25.  Photo: AFP.

A long line of trucks line up on the Shin-meishin Expressway in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture, Japan on January 25. Photo: AFP.

Many Vietnamese living, working and studying in South Korea also faced similar hardships during the record-breaking cold.

Cao Ba Long, 24, a student who has lived for five years in the city of Gyeongju, central South Korea, said winter this year came earlier than usual and the cold weather lasted longer.

“Last year’s lowest temperature was about -7 to -9 degrees Celsius, this year it dropped from -10 to -15 degrees Celsius, even -17 degrees Celsius. I dress warmly when I go to work, when I get home, I have to turn it on. heating system,” Long said.

The prolonged negative weather made Van Giang’s family in Seoul miserable because the water pipe in the toilet was frozen, causing great inconvenience.

“We had to use boiling water, a hair dryer directed at the frozen pipe to fix it. One day the whole family had to ask for help to wash the neighbor’s house. The toilet in the company’s toilet was also frozen, right. Pour boiling water and wait for the ice to melt before you can use it, “said Giang.

Her family had to turn on the dripping faucets to avoid freezing the pipes, and at the same time apply all possible anti-cold measures such as sticking insulation in the house. “It’s impossible to imagine the life of outdoor workers these days,” she said.

A resident shovels snow to clear a road for cars on Ulleung Island, Uljin District, Gangwon Province, January 27.  Photo: Yonhap.

A resident shovels snow to clear a road for cars on Ulleung Island, Uljin District, Gangwon Province, South Korea on January 27. Photo: Yonhap.

Cao Ba Long said that the Korean government often subsidizes gas prices to make people more comfortable heating in the cold season, but this year increased the price, causing heating bills to “almost double”. Except for energy, the price of every commodity has gone up, so everyone is trying to save money.

In Gyeonggi, South Korea’s most populous province, Hai Yen, 25, said the annual cost of gas for cooking and heating in the winter is about 250,000-300,000 won ($204-244) for a three-person house.

“But this year is too cold, plus the government’s gas price hike, so we expect next month’s bill may reach 600,000 won (about 500 USD),” Yen said, noting members of the committee. The house has applied many different measures to combat the cold and save money to limit the use of gas.

“Winter is a real obsession. The couple can endure the cold, but they can’t help but turn on the heating when the children are at home during the winter break,” said Ms. Giang in Seoul, saying that she is considering an option. Many Korean families are applying to buy camping tents to set up indoors to avoid the cold.

Duc Trung

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