It wouldn’t be a snow day in If I Had A Minute T0 Spare Towers if I didn’t have a stream of photographs of the lovely traffic jam inducing whiteness.

Hark! Here they cometh. Snow photos from Yeongtong-dong!

(Yes, I know I’m spoiling you)

The real fun begins tomorrow when all this is frozen, of course.















All photographs © Conor O’Reilly 2013

Undol -v- Radiators

In a classroom I teach in the heating hasn’t been working since who knows when. It has probably been broken since the summer. It’s one of those awful heaters that doubles as an air-conditioner, blowing out dry, heated air, in the winter, and flimsy puffs of cool in summer. Yesterday, I was sitting at a desk rubbing my knees and grimacing one of those ‘oh well you know’ friendly kind of faces towards the students who came in wrapped for artic exploration. I actually felt sorry for them because at least I could stand up and walk around for a little warmth.

I turned to one student, who I knew had lived in the UK for several years and proclaimed ‘what we need here are some radiators!’ to which she gave me a blank look. I remonstrated with her, trying to job her memory to which she replied ‘I prefer undol’. And I thought, ‘oh yeah…but no…’

Of course if you’ve lived in Korea, or indeed merely visited, you’ll have experienced undol. It is the floor heating which exists in every home, many hotels, and indeed any restaurant where floor seating is the norm. It’s great, to be honest, to crawl into your home from the cold, kick of your shoes and glide across the sleek floor and then lie down in a warm cosy spot, defrosting with the undol’s loveliness caressing your bum.

Old undol… (image by me via flickr!)

I know Herself is a big fan of it, especially when there’s a nice big cosy blanket to wrap around herself. I would be inclined to blame it for what seems to be every Koreans’ outspoken aversion to anything cold (except iced lattes etc.). Can you blame anyone for liking the cold after probably spending every moment they don’t need to be outside sitting at home on the undol. In fact anything that isn’t undol in winter is in fact cold. I know this sounds like stereotyping, which I’m no fan of, but in this case it’s not necessarily a bad thing. To back me up all I need to do is look behind me at my wife currently engaging wholeheartedly with all that the undol has to offer.

Back to my remonstration.

I grew up with radiators, not undol. Radiators were, in winter, great. Why? They were warm. They radiated warmth. They were cosy, provided you didn’t touch one which was doubling as an soldering iron for some reason. Of course if they’re never turned on they’re not much good. Sure they leaked, stuff got stuck behind them, you burned your finger, and of course they had to be painted every so often. But then again so does a house.

You see for all that radiators have not, and all that undol has, radiators have that undol has not. Let me explain, and elaborate on why Korean needs more radiators.

Radiators, radiators, radiators! (imagae via flickr)

Radiators, radiators, radiators! (imagae via flickr)

So I’ve given one side of the story already. The cosy, slipping under the blanket in front of the TV, versus the burning your finger and laboriousness of radiators. It’s a clear winner, but really it isn’t because you can’t have undol everywhere.

Firstly, I wonder how effective undol would be in a two story house? Firstly there’s the pipes upstairs thing, and then there’s a space issue. How many square metres is your average apartment compared with your average house? Would it work? And if it did, how much would it cost?

Next, while I think taking your shoes off as you enter the home is a nice concept, it can be really annoying and impractical, such as in the hallway, or indeed in the kitchen. A good tiled floor would be much more useful. And then there’s the cultural element. The amount of time I’ve been chastised for even letting the tip of my shoe laden toe touch the linoleum, and all I can think of is, ‘chill the fuck out, if it bothers you that my toes touched the lino, give me a space bigger than a toilet cubicle to take off my bloody shoes in…’ It’s a little overkill. Yeah maybe I should be more vigilant with my size 11s, but come on, it’s a floor not a child’s bed.

Take my argument out of the home, which is where most people I discussed this point with seemed to think was the only place that needed heat.

Oh yes, I’ve opened up the argument to the rest of the world.

Floor heating really only works when you don’t have shoes on. Yes, heat does rise, but when you’re wearing shoes and socks and walking around what does it matter, you’re not really going to be in one place long enough to really appreciate the warm floor. And if you don’t have undol what are you going to do?

What we have ended up with is a world of heatless buildings that seem to have been designed with the idea that, well we can’t have undol, we can’t have anything. There is the odd portable heater, which never does the job, and don’t even get me started again on the hot air belchers. I know that these would probably work better if they rooms they were in were actually insulated.

I know, you’re asking yourself when did I become an expert on construction materials and heating. Well, since I’ve froze my ass off every winter since 2005, I’ve decided I’m an expert.

Back to the point. Undol is lovely, but radiators, yes please! Or even better, lets knock a fireplace into every wall like there should be.

P.S. I say all this with my sockless toes all cosy and warm lodged on a warm patch on the floor.

P.P.S. Stay warm kids!


We were all warned about it (weren’t we?) so we all prepared appropriately. I made sure to put the car in the basement of our apartment complex and dusted down my big ould boots that I reserve for weather like this. Most importantly, I made sure that my phone had a full battery because I knew that this day was going to be a busy day, snowmagedon was on its way.

Last Wednesday Korea got its first real good dose of snow, and by Korea I mean the entire penninsula and not just the east coast and mountains. From around mid-day until six o’clock it snowed pretty heavily, and by the time it had stopped snowing I hadn’t taken half as many photographs as I had hoped I would.

Maybe I’m getting old or something but the idea of stepping out into the cold with no gloves on when I could be indoors drinking warm coffee and avoiding work I should be doing just didn’t appeal to me, so I chose the latter. Granted it didn’t really snow that heavily, but it was enough to make convenience inconvenient.

It’s quite lovely outside now with all its fluffy whiteness after another light fall of snow today and yesterday, but I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who didn’t have to drive to work this morning, and if there’s one thing I like about snow it’s walking around in it.

There’s something about being in the snow, but during and after, that makes the air so much quieter, but maybe it just is quieter; there aren’t that many kids around, the traffic is slower and less hectic, and perhaps the softness brought upon by the snow muffles the noises which would regularly bounce off usually rigid surroundings. Or maybe I’m looking into it too deeply.

Here are some of the pictures I took over the past three days (excluding the inevitable Instagram ones) from around my neighbourhood and workplace here in Suwon.

The snow begins on Wednesday

The snow begins on Wednesday

After one hour of snowfall

After one hour of snowfall

I think they put this pagoda up in work purely for people to take photographs on snowy days - there was even snowed cleared from around the base.

I think they put this pagoda up in work purely for people to take photographs on snowy days – there was even snowed cleared from around the base.

Snowy lamplit trees

Snowy lamplit trees

Yesterday morning, the main street almost looked like a river.

Yesterday morning, the main street almost looked like a river.

The carpark this afternoon

The carpark this afternoon

View of the main Yeongtong drag from the 20th floor

View of the main Yeongtong drag from the 20th floor

Thought this made a nice picture - should have held my camera straight...

Thought this made a nice picture – should have held my camera straight…

Walking into work this afternoon.

Walking into work this afternoon.

Slushy Yeongtong streets

Slushy Yeongtong streets

In Bandal Park

In Bandal Park

Main gate of Kyunghee University

Main gate of Kyunghee University

All photographs taken with my iPhone 4 camera because I’m lazy 😦

For more photographs please visit my flickr page.


The Snow in 4 Danji

In local news, it snowed last night for a few hours. I spent all day watching the weather waiting for it to start, but when it did eventually start I had completely forgotten about it. Of course everyone knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but I suppose it was nice to have it fall just before Christmas. So, I suppose we’ll have a white Christmas.

Here is a collection of photographs I took on my phone this morning walking down to the supermarket. Most are taken from inside or fairly close to the apartment.


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Empty Hooks?

This Friday (January 28) on the drive out to Gangneung myself and herself stopped by Jinbu in Pyeongchang to do a spot of ice fishing. “What”? you ask, as I asked my beloved also. Ice fishing – as in fishing for ice? Surely you can make your own if you’re that desperate for a gin and tonic my dear, I chuckled. This exercise could have potential if one was in a desert or somewhere hot, but travel experts will know that Korea is not hot in the winter, and as we drove through the mountains and saw all the signs for Pyeongchang 2018, I began to realise that there was something else to this ice fishing.


A hole in the ice

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