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Koreans take new year’s celebrations to outdoors despite chilly temperatures

Out and about on eve, first day of 2020

The cold spell did not deter Koreans from welcoming the new year outdoors.

Mountains around the country drew early morning hikers seeking to catch a glimpse of the rising sun.

Making New Year’s wishes, resolutions while watching the sunrise is a Korean tradition.

Retiree Lee Young-gi, 72, said he has spent the first dawn of the year at the nearby mountains of Cheonggye and Gwanak for the last 10 years.

“This year, I watched the sunrise from Gwanaksan, had a cup of coffee and came back home for a bowl of rice cake soup,” Lee said. He said he wished for his wife’s good health.

President Moon Jae-in went on the first day hike on Achasan in Gwangjin, an eastern district of Seoul, joined by seven citizens who had been invited in recognition of their service to society.

The presidential office has organized the hike with citizens every New Year’s Day since Moon took office in 2017.


A crowd watches the sunrise from a beach in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A crowd watches the sunrise from a beach in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (center) takes a break during a hike with citizens on Wednesday at Achasan in eastern Seoul. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (center) takes a break during a hike with citizens on Wednesday at Achasan in eastern Seoul. (Yonhap)

This year’s invitees included a firefighter who saved a woman from a rape attempt; an elementary school teacher who rescued two children from a fire; and a college student who caught a traffic offender.

“We all deserve to be happy this year,” Moon said during the hike. “This year’s going to be better, more hopeful than the last, if people trust in the government efforts (for a better year).”

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to beach towns and cities along the east coast -- including Gangneung and Sokcho in Gangwon Province, Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province, Busan and Ulsan -- on New Year’s Day to watch the first sunrise of 2020. An estimated 300,000 locals and visitors crowded the beaches in Busan alone.

In Daejeon, about 1,000 people took part in a topless marathon. The 7-kilometer run kicked off at 11:11 a.m. to mark the first day of the year.

KakaoTalk, a messaging app widely popular among Koreans, was down for about two hours from Tuesday midnight to 2:15 a.m. Wednesday. The mobile company said the service crashed due to a sudden surge in traffic.

The countdown on New Year’s Eve also saw a considerable turnout despite the cold wave alert.

Over 100,000 people gathered in Jongno, a central district in Seoul, on New Year’s Eve to count down the last seconds of 2019 as Bosingak -- a large Joseon era bell -- rang in the new year.

This year’s countdown ceremony was attended by former major leaguer Ryu Hyun-jin, European Union Ambassador to South Korea Michael Reiterer, Korean War veterans, PyongChang Winter Olympics interpreters, and other celebrated figures, as well as Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

“The past year saw a struggling economy, suffering middle class and flaring political tensions,” Park said. “Let the new year be a year of peace, unity and economic revival.

Morning lows dipped to minus 6 degrees Celsius in Seoul on Wednesday as a cold snap gripped the nation on the holiday.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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