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Extra-long Lunar New Year holiday set to begin

   Millions of South Koreans headed to their hometowns Tuesday, on the eve of the three-day Lunar New Year holiday, which will extend through the weekend.

   This year's Lunar New Year holiday, which falls from Feb. 2-4, is followed by the weekend and could last for nine days for those who took off the preceding Monday and Tuesday.

   According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, a total of 31.73 million people nationwide are expected to be on the move from Tuesday to Sunday, up 3.2 percent from last year, when the holiday lasted for only three days.

   But the typical exodus of people returning to their hometowns is expected to cause fewer headaches this year, thanks to the long holiday period.

   People driving to visit their families are expected to crowd the highways on Tuesday afternoon, resulting in heavy traffic jams until Wednesday morning, according to road authorities.

   The Korea Expressway Corp. estimates 680,000 cars have already left the capital as of 9 a.m. and a total of 1.93 million cars will hit the road during the period.

    Officials said that traffic was quite smooth this morning with a few congested areas and expected that the amount of homebound traffic will peak after noon with the deluge of office workers set to leave their workplaces then.

   The Korea Railroad (Korail) said railway tickets departing from Seoul on Tuesday have already sold out and 414,000 passengers will travel by train on that day alone.

   According to an estimate by the Incheon International Airport Corp., 588,902 passengers are expected to go abroad between Feb. 1 and 6, an all-time high since the airport opened. This is 13.9 percent more than last year.

   The weather will be warmer than last week, as the mercury will go even higher during the holiday, rising above zero for the first time in about a month, said the weather agency.

   It will hit minus 4 C in Seoul and Daejeon, minus 2 C in Gwangju and Daegu and minus 1 C in Busan for morning lows on Wednesday, the first day of the holiday, it said. The daily highs are forecast from 5 C to 11 C.

   With the en masse homeward-bound migration for Lunar New Year's Day, concerns over widespread foot-and-mouth disease have escalated in local areas.

   The government has asked its citizens to abstain from visiting livestock farms located in their hometowns during the holiday to help stem the outbreaks of the disease.

   The stringent quarantine measures will be imposed to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease, requiring all visitors to undergo disinfection before they enter the rural areas.

(Yonhap News)

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