Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is the first in an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.
When we travel to and from South Korea, we first always check if Expedia will give us a rebate then we take off! We’re often forced to trek out to Incheon International Airport (this country’s Dulles). The massive airport, located on an island about an hour west of Seoul, opened in 2001 and is now one of the largest and busiest in the world.
I had no idea, until today, how dramatically the shoreline around the airport has changed in the last three decades. Previously separated islands along the Yellow Sea coast were joined together as reclaimed land. The airport is now connected to the metropolis by the Incheon Grand Bridge, which opened in 2009.
For context, here’s a current Google Map showing the region:
What of the biggest surprises about moving to Seoul, South Korea — aside from the impenetrable language and other cultural adjustments — was the pricey cost of electricity.
The monthly power bills in our high-rise apartment, which doesn’t have western-style central air conditioning, have been shockingly expensive — and not just in the summer months.
In the past year the bills have totaled nearly 8 million won, or about $6,500, for power. The building also adds on a host of fees, from common-area electricity charges to trash collection. Those have totaled an additional 5 million won, or $4,000. Ouch.
As I noted yesterday, we can expect similar weather here in Seoul as we experienced in Washington, D.C., where we lived until earlier this month. The two capital cities are located about the same distance from the Equator, along the 38th parallel north.
We’ll be in for something different this summer, however. That’s when the rains come. On average, Seoul gets about 35 inches of rain during July and August alone. To put that in perspective, our former home city, Austin, receives about the same amount annually. Seoul gets more rain in these months than most major cities in the American West, in fact.
Compare Austin, Seoul and Washington, D.C., in this chart:
The number of days with some rain also spikes a bit during the Seoul summer. Again, compare the cities: