South Korea is facing a severe heatwave, prompting the government to raise the hot weather warning to its highest level for the first time in four years. As temperatures soared above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 F), the interior and safety ministry issued the alert on Wednesday. Tragically, the scorching heat has claimed the lives of 23 people across the country, more than triple the number of casualties during the same period last year, according to local media reports citing firefighting authorities. The city of Yeoju, south of Seoul, experienced a record-breaking official temperature of 38.4C on Tuesday, as reported by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
In response to the extreme conditions, South Korea raised the heat warning level in its four-tier system to the highest on Tuesday evening, a measure not seen since 2019. The highest “serious” warning is issued when the apparent temperature is expected to reach 35C or higher in at least 40% of the country’s 180 regions for three or more days. Additionally, the warning can be triggered when the apparent temperature is likely to surpass 38C for three or more days in 10% of the country. The weather agency predicts the highest daily temperature on Wednesday to reach 35C in the capital city, Seoul.
Government officials anticipate that high temperatures, coupled with oppressive humidity, will persist in the coming days, with the apparent temperature hovering around 35C in most parts of the country. In light of the heatwave’s deadly impact, President Yoon Suk Yeol urged authorities to intensify measures to prevent further casualties, particularly for individuals working outdoors, the elderly citizens, and those residing in makeshift houses lacking adequate air conditioning systems.
In response to the crisis, construction workers near President Yoon’s office held a press conference, demanding concrete countermeasures. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions issued a statement, stressing that under the current conditions, construction workers’ heat deaths are “expected deaths.” This severe weather is not limited to South Korea alone, as North Korea also grapples with an unrelenting heatwave.
State media reported that the highest daily temperatures in North Korea are forecast to hover around 35C to 37C by Thursday. Experts in the field of climate change point to the growing frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events as symptomatic of global, human-driven climate change. Heatwaves in various parts of the world are expected to persist throughout August. As South Korea and North Korea continue to battle the heatwave, authorities are on high alert, taking measures to protect citizens, especially those at higher risk. It is crucial for both countries to stay vigilant and implement effective strategies to mitigate the impact of these extreme weather conditions.