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SEOUL — South Korean government offices turned off air conditioning and shut down elevators Tuesday in an effort to avert a possible nationwide blackout as temperatures soared, along with the demand for electricity, according to South Korean media reports.

The temporary shutdown of several nuclear reactors for maintenance — including two that were shut down in May when it was discovered that substandard parts were used — has strained the country’s electricity resources. South Korea’s energy minister, Yoon Sang-jick, warned over the weekend that any minor problems this week could lead to serious problems including blackouts, according to Yonhap News.

U.S. Forces Korea did not immediately respond this week to a request for information on how, or if, a blackout would affect military installations on the peninsula, or what the military was doing to prepare for possible blackouts. U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, the largest USFK installation on the peninsula, said in a statement that it is “taking appropriate environmental conservation measures to deal with any power outages,” but did not provide details.

Temperatures in Seoul reached the low- to mid-90s on Tuesday, with highs in other cities across the peninsula ranging from the 80s to the low 90s. According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, humidity hovered around 60 percent in Seoul, meaning a heat index of around 108 degrees.

Yonhap also reported that the government banned air conditioning at government and public offices from Monday through Wednesday, when power consumption was expected to reach its peak annual demand. Some offices also temporarily shut down elevators to conserve energy.

Reports said that without energy-saving measures, the country’s power reserve would dip this week to 1.56 million kilowatts, well below what is considered the safe reserve threshold of 4 million kilowatts.

The ministry announced a series of energy-saving measures in June for the summer months to cope with the expected “unprecedented power shortages.” Those measures included requiring commercial buildings with high electricity demands to maintain a temperature of 26 degrees Celsius — 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit — or higher and requiring stores to keep their doors closed when air conditioning is in use.

Public institutions and buildings with high electricity demand are also required to turn off their air conditioning every 30 minutes during peak demand hours.

rowland.ashley@stripes.com


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