Too cold outside, and too hot at home

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Too cold outside, and too hot at home


The family of Ahn Seung-il, the 46-year-old owner of a design company, had their eyes glued to the TV one Sunday afternoon in the living room of the family’s apartment in Nowon District, northern Seoul. The temperature outside had dropped to nine degrees below zero Celsius (16 degrees Fahrenheit), but the four-member family was in T-shirts and shorts.

Their attire came as little surprise, as the living room was found to be a balmy 28 degrees.

“Normally, I don’t know the exact temperature of my house because we use a valve to control temperature here,” Ahn said.

“That’s why we just keep the rule simple here. We keep the room temperature warm enough to wear short sleeves and shorts.”


Ahn’s wife, Kim Tae-suk, 42, said she rarely turns off the boiler as her two middle and high school children are on winter break and are at home more than usual. But she admits it’s way too hot when she does housework.

“I guess I will get higher heating bills this month, because I’ve been keeping the house warm like this because of the cold spell,” Kim said.

Many Korean families keep their house far too warm, like the Ahns. Compared to other advanced nations such as Japan and France, Korean households use an overwhelming amount of energy.

That’s why many Koreans confess they are used to wearing shorts inside their apartments in winter.

It’s not just homes that use too much energy. Customers in department stores often take off their coats after finding it too hot to walk around the shops. Even some local district offices are no exception.

When the cold spell reached its peak, with temperatures hitting minus 14.4 degrees Celsius last Thursday afternoon, thermostats in the information center at Gangnam District Office Station on line No. 7 were set to keep the office at 28 degrees Celsius.

In an effort to save energy, the central government made a rule that limits local, municipal and central government offices to a temperature of 19 degrees Celsius.

When the information center official was asked whether he was aware of the government guideline, he said he hadn’t receive any specific orders. There was also an electric space heater beside his desk in addition to the central heating.

JoongAng Ilbo reporters checked the temperature at 11 government offices, shopping malls, fast-food chain restaurants and book stores, and the average temperature was 22.6 degrees Celsius, slightly above the 20 degrees that is considered the peak advisable winter temperature.

One fast-food restaurant located in COEX in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul was 26 degrees Celsius. That’s the temperature that Seoulites normally experience in the middle and end of July.

“When I first got in here, I felt that the temperature was just right,” said Seo Se-jeong, a college student. “But I realized that it’s a bit too hot when I was strolling around. I think it would be okay if they lowered the temperature a bit.”

Health experts warn that the overuse of heaters can actually increase your risk of catching the flu, because it widens the temperature gap between the inside and the outside.

Particularly in the dryness of Korea’s winter, when the room gets too hot, the air dries out. This can cause dermatitis or inflame existing conditions such as eczema.

Many experts say the ideal way of keeping warm indoors is to layer up and keep the temperature in the house between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius.

“Because electricity charges are relatively cheap, many people don’t recognize the importance of energy,” said Jeong Han-gyeong, a researcher at the Korea Energy Economics Institute.

By Kang Chan-su, Kim Mi-ju []
Related Korean Article

서울 공공장소 11곳 온도 재보니, 28도 지하철역사서 히터 틀기도, 시·구청 민원실은 기준온도 지켜

17일 낮 12시 서울 중계동의 한 아파트. 디자인회사를 경영하는 안승일(46)씨가 반소매 차림으로 거실의 TV 앞에 앉아 있었다. 이날 최저기온은 영하 9도였다. 부인 김태숙(42)씨와 중·고생 두 딸도 반팔 티에 얇은 면바지를 입고 있었다. 다소 덥게 느껴지는 거실의 온도를 측정하니 28도가 넘었다.

“덥지 않으냐”고 묻자 안씨는 “정확한 온도는 잘 모르지만 반팔 티를 입고 있어도 안 추울 정도로 실내 온도를 높여 놓는다”고 말했다. 아내 김씨도 “집안일을 하다 보면 가끔 덥지만 늘 이렇게 지낸다”고 했다.

한국의 가정은 겨울에도 덥다. 일본이나 프랑스 같은 선진국 가정보다 에너지를 많이 쓴다. 아파트에서는 한겨울에도 반바지에 반팔을 입고 지내는 풍경이 흔하다. 문제는 에너지 낭비가 아파트 같은 가정에만 그치지 않는다는 데 있다. 백화점·기업체 사무실·상점 등의 실내 온도가 적정 온도(영상 18~20도)를 넘는다.

서울의 아침 최저기온이 영하 14.4도까지 떨어져 추위가 절정에 달한 14일 오후. 본지 취재팀이 지하철 7호선 강남구청역 안내센터에 들어서자 후끈한 더운 바람이 천장에서 내려왔다. 히터를 보니 설정 온도가 28도였다. “공기업의 실내온도를 18도 이하로 낮추라는 정부 지침을 아느냐”고 직원에게 묻자 “구체적인 지시를 못 받았다”는 답변뿐이었다. 책상 옆에는 전기히터까지 켜져 있었다.

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