It’s June and the monsoon is coming. The rainy season is called 장마 (jangma) in Korea, and the forecast says it will start this week. Here’s a handy list of essential items for surviving the coming deluge.
1. Watertight Shoes, or Shoes With Adequate Drainage
The choice is yours, to be honest. Just avoid the middle ground between these two comfortable extremes. This middle ground is better known as your favorite pair of Chuck Taylors, which will succumb to the first puddle you stand in.
Unless you like squelching as you walk, or are really into sitting into on the subway with wet, strangely warm feet, do one of these two things: be like a Korean elementary schooler and wear Crocs or quirky sandals, so it doesn’t really matter how deep the puddle is; or get some watertight sneakers.
If your feet don’t look like two creatures dragged up from the abyssal depths of the ocean, sandals or flip-flops are probably your best option. That, or some straight-up monsoon gumboots.
Mul Naengmyeon (물 냉면) is cheap, comes in an ice-water broth, and is perfect for beating the summer humidity. Many places also do takeout and delivery. If you can handle the extra spice, go for Bibim Naengmyeon (비빔냉면). Both are perfect when the weather’s so steamy it feels like you can hardly breathe.
3. Between Three and Five Different Umbrellas
Your umbrella is at home, or at work, or in the back of a taxi, or in a restaurant somewhere, and now there are miniature rivers running down the sidewalks. You will buy another umbrella, because to be outside without an umbrella is to be instantly soaking wet (and also, to be the only person in hundreds without an umbrella). Accept this. Nurse your growing umbrella collection. Store umbrellas in strategic locations. The knockoff Major League Baseball ones are the best.
The other traditional hot-weather Korean food, a ginseng-infused chicken soup (with a whole chicken in it) that is supposed to be eaten on the lunar calendar’s three hottest days of summer – this year, they’re July 17th, July 27th, and August 15th. This soup follows the “beat the heat with heat” theory and is also good for warding off summer colds.
The rainy season this year is scheduled to last until early August. Make sure you drink plenty of water, embrace yourself as a being that sweats (it’s natural…) and stay aircon-adjacent whenever you can.