Support our mission

SEOUL — Has spring sprung in South Korea?

According to the traditional Korean division of seasons, Wednesday marked Ipchun, the first day of spring and the beginning of 24 different seasons throughout the year. But with daytime temperatures well below freezing, you’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone winter is finished.

And, says South Korea’s meteorological administration, cold temperatures are forecast to stick around. Snow was predicted for many spots around the country on the first spring day.

Traditionally, rainfall on Ipchun is considered a good sign — refreshing every living creature. This year, that precipitation likely will be in frozen form.

With cloudy skies forecast through week’s end, South Koreans also are concerned about being able to see the moon on the lunar year’s first full-moon day, Thursday. That’s when Koreans traditionally crunch nuts or walnuts to drive away bad luck for the coming year. They also feast on a special meal with five different kinds of grains, vegetables and rice cake.

Because Korea long depended on agriculture before turning to industrial development in the 1970s, recognizing each season was essential to farmers. They had to know the best time for sowing and harvesting.

But, scholars say, the lunar calendar they used wasn’t indicative of seasonal changes because only solar movement can reflect various seasons. To help solve this problem, Koreans invented a system of 24 subdivided seasons based upon 24 different angular movements of the sun.

Every month has two seasons and each usually is set apart by 15 days, according to the system. Sometimes, the period between seasons becomes 14 or 16 days due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit.

Though the 24 seasons each have their own characteristics and celebrations, they’re mostly used now for traditional observances.


Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up