Saturday, July 17, 2010

장마철: Rainy Season

장마철 (jang-ma-cheol) is the Korean word for rainy season. 장마 meaning rainy and 철 meaning season. According to Wikipedia, the Korean rainy season runs from the end of June through the end of July. Other websites suggest July through mid-August for rainy season. The official start date this year, though, according to Korea's official tourism website was June 26th.

I mention this today, Friday, because it's incredibly rainy outside. It's been raining steadily with varying intensity from strong to "Holy cow I didn't know it could rain that hard!" all day long. It's enough to keep me in tonight, and I suspect many other folks are feeling the same way...

If you happen to be in Korea during the 장마철 one quickly learns to keep a compact umbrella in one's purse, backpack or man bag (whatever your choice of accessories may be) at all times. Even if you leave your house in the morning and it looks sunny, the weather may change by the end of the day leaving you with a very rainy walk home. Fortunately, most convenience stores have capitalized on 장마철 and, conveniently, always have a wide selection of umbrellas available for sale. Often leaving those who aren't wise enough to bring umbrellas out at all times with a rather unusually large collection of umbrellas to dispose of upon leaving the country.

장마철 also makes Korean summers unbarably humid at times. While the temperature may only be in the 80˚ range, the incredibly high humidity makes one sweat without leaving one's chair. While I never owned an air conditioner in my life back in the states, I find it to be the only relief I can get on those days where I'm breaking a sweat just by typing at my computer. In my new apartment, I try not to use the AC often, and I feel that this summer has been cooler than previous summers (though, that could just be the situation of my new apartment, 3rd floor brick building with very little direct sunlight). But... it's still pretty hot.

Anyway, if you're planning on traveling in Korea, I would recommend avoiding this summer period. These rains can put a real damper on outdoor travel plans. For the rest of us stuck here for the summer, well, never leave home without your trusty umbrella and practice the following Korean 장마철 words.

Useful 장마철 vocabulary

비 (bi)- rain
비오다 (bi-oh-da) To rain --> 비와요 (bi wayo) It rains/ it's raining
비가 올것 같아요 ( biga- ol-kot-kat-ah-yo) - It looks like it may rain
우산 (oo-san) - Umbrella
태풍 (teh-poong)- Typhoon
홍수 (hongsu)- Flood


  1. Awesome post. I have lived in Korea for 4 years and have yet to experience 장마철. I hope to continue avoiding it. :-)

  2. Thanks! Lucky you, I'm not a big fan of rain. This week's forecast? Rain, Rain, Sun, Rain, Rain Rain.

  3. I think it's called monsoon in other parts of Asia, and in places like Vietnam and Thailand it's much worse than here. A lot of engineering has gone into keeping the high water from turning into floodwaters. Large portions of the Han River Park regularly become submerged for as much as a week during this time of the year. Nevertheless, a couple of years ago, I almost got caught stranded in a mountainous rural area over a weekend when roads back to the city nearly became impassable, and I barely escaped missing a day of work from it.

    I grew up in California and rain like this in the summer will never feel natural to me. Still, I think I prefer it to the cold in the winter ...

  4. Yes, you're right. This would be considered "monsoon" season in English. I had a simillar experience with getting stranded last year. I went to an island off Incheon and when I left, the weather was ok, but it turned the next morning and no ferry would take us back. I missed a hour of work the next day because we had to take the first boat out the next morning. Fortunately they brought out three boats very early to pick up all the stranded people.

    Oh changma, how I love thee.