[Writer's Choice] Foreigner’s Experience: Korean Seasons - Spring
BanSeok Shin, March 21, 2019, 5:46 p.m.
I am someone who has grown up with a great appreciation for nature scenery – especially when it is related to plants. And my appreciation has grown the longer I live in, and venture out of, Southern California. You see, between the sea of buildings that is the Greater Los Angeles area & Orange County, and the area’s chaparral biome, much of Southern California’s nature visuals can be quite lacking throughout the year. While there certainly are pockets and areas of natural wonder (I’m talking about plants here) across the state they not always clearly evident are either seasonal, far away, or difficult to get to.
Can you spot Downtown LA in this sea of suburbs?
However, this was not the case when I lived in Korea. When I experienced Korean Spring for the first time I found that the plants actually ‘sprung’ back to life rather than slowly waking up. I remember the very short period of time where Winter swiftly made way for the Spring. One day, in March I believe, the weather was still chilly, and the trees and many bushes and other plants were still bare due to the winter cold. It was also rainy that day – it had not rained for a while as that winter had been particularly dry. Then suddenly, over next the couple of days all of the lush foliage returned to the trees and bushes! I had been expecting this process to take a full week at the very least! Those days had nice (no rain but still cold) cloudy weather and nature took full advantage of the rain and break from the frigid temperatures. I was so caught off-guard by the speed of the Spring process that each of those days are like a snapshot – together creating time-lapse of nature’s re-birth in my memory.
It went from looking like this...
...to this in less than a week...simply amazing!
And it wasn’t just the leaves and grasses that came back – a diverse variety of flowers bloomed as well – most notably, cherry blossoms! Cherry blossom trees are absolutely pretty and a sight to behold up close. They only bloom March – May (this also depends on the area) and are quite famous in South Korea. They also have a romantic connotation attached to them as many couples like to walk under the falling petals of a cherry blossom tree. Have you ever noticed cherry blossom petals raining down in a Korean drama or in an anime?
Have you ever noticed cherry blossom petals raining down in a Korean drama or in an anime? Yeah, that actually happens – especially on breezy and windy days, as I experienced first-hand! In fact, there are many places in Korea where cherry blossom trees are lined up next to roads and walking paths, so people can fully enjoy the experience! The most notable of these is the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul.
Apart from enjoying the lovely, nice smelling cherry blossoms there are a multitude of places you can go and experience the country’s beautiful Spring scenery. You don’t have to travel too far from Seoul to see some of them either. South Korea is a very mountainous country which means that it is difficult for people to develop land in many areas (thus the reason so many cities are densely populated). This also means that there are significant amounts of forests around and intertwined with large population centers such as Seoul.
This picture overlooks part of Seoul. You can see multiple hills and significant amounts of forest throughout this section of the city as well as in many other sections in the background.
While this circumstance can be inconvenient for many due to congestion in cities nature is able to thrive producing amazing scenery that people can enjoy. And there’s not only natural beauty available, but plenty of human constructed gardens and other botanical areas as well! As many who live in more temperate climates know Spring is an opportune time to go out and enjoy nature in a variety of ways such as bike riding, playing in the park, traveling, taking walks, field trips and so on. The same goes for South Korea with its thousands of miles of bike paths, many parks, fashionable Spring clothing, and trips to places like Jeju Island (which I did, and it was awesome)!
As mentioned before the climate during the Spring time can be quite pleasant. Here is an annual climate chart according to onthegotours.com .
As you can see South Korea’s climate becomes quite preferable, between the second half of March to the beginning of June. As a person who personally prefers cold weather Korean Spring feels like that perfect (temperature wise) time of year when the weather is neither too cool or too warm. I’d recommend both early Summer wear, Fall clothes, and whatever comes between that.
Now, for me at least, besides one big issue, there isn’t too much to complain about when it comes to Spring in Korea. Sometimes it rains, but it’s not usually a big deal. There aren’t too many bugs (although be wary of bees and wasps when around flowers - naturally), especially when compared to Korean Summer. Given the amount of nature that can be found both in cities and in less populated areas there is probably, at least a decent amount of pollen and other plant material in the air so people with allergies to them should be little careful.
Except for those who are particularly vulnerable to irritants in the air pollens are not usually a big deal, but there is, however is something else in the Spring air that can often be cause for concern. Yellow/Fine Dust is a phenomenon that plagues Korea, as well as much of East Asia – especially during the spring time. You can read more about it in my article about it by clicking on the hyperlink here: (Yellow/Fine Dust). To give you a brief overview of what it is, it large clouds of sand, dirt and other particles that strong winds carry from west and central Asia as far as Japan and even the West Coast of the U.S. Due to various pollutants, heavy metals, biological matter, and sand found in the dust clouds, significant levels of the dust can negatively affect air quality and cause health concerns for those who are directly exposed to too much dust.
If you keep an eye on weather and specific fine dust forecasts, then yellow dust shouldn’t really be a problem unless it causes the cancellation or postponement of outdoor events you were planning on attending. Outside of yellow dust South Korea’s Spring time is a wonderful time of year filled with great weather and plenty of outdoor activities. I can’t remember experiencing a more pleasant and beautiful Spring season in my life – and there was a lot that I didn’t get the chance to experience! If you’re ever in Korea during the Spring, then I highly recommend trying to make the most of your time in the country as it is an experience that you definitely shouldn’t miss!
Here’s a list of some places and events in South Korea to visit during the Spring time!
- Yeon Deung Hoe/Lotus Lantern Festival (Seoul)
- Taean Tulip Festival (Taean, South Chungcheong Province)
- Boseong Green Tea Festival (Boseong, South Jeolla Province)
- Damyang Bamboo Festival (Damyang, South Jeolla Province)
- Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival (Seoul)
- Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province)
- Nami Island (Gangwon Province)
- Suncheon Bay Garden Expo (Suncheon, South Jeolla Province)
- Jeju Island (Jeju Province)
- Gyeongbokgung Palace (Seoul)
- Seoul Forest (Seoul)
- Yeongchwisan Mountain/Azalea Festival (Yeosu, South Jeolla Province)
And for added fun here are some of my favorite Korean songs that remind me of the spring!
Song – Artist
- What the Spring? – 10cm
- Cherry Blossom Ending – Busker Busker
- Running Across the Sky – Huh Gak (Not about Spring but first heard this epic song in the Spring on Jeju Island. It’s a song beloved by many Koreans)
- Spring Day – BTS
- BOM BOM BOM (Spring Spring Spring) – Roy Kim
- Not Spring, Love, or Cherry Blossoms – HIGH4 & IU
- The Flowers – Busker Busker