Most of the sparkly Christmas vibes of Korea in December have faded away, but Korea in January begins with one of the most meaningful sunrises of the year. Sure, January might be the coldest and snowiest of months in South Korea, but it’s still packed with unique festivals and winter sports galore.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- what the January weather in Korea is like
- the Seoul weather in January and other major cities and tourist hotspots, including Busan, Jeju, Pyeongchang and Gangwon-do
- the best winter festivals to attend in Korea in January
- what to wear and the best things to pack for a successful trip to South Korea in January
Jump to what you want.
- 1 Visiting Korea in January
- 2 Korea in January | Weather
- 3 Planning a trip to Korea?
- 4 Limited Edition Winter Tours in Korea
- 5 Korea in January | Public Holidays 2023
- 6 Korea in January | Best Festivals and Events
- 6.1 Sunrise Festivals in Korea
- 6.2 Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival | 칠갑산얼음분수축제
- 6.3 Haeundae Lighting Festival | 해운대 빛축제
- 6.4 Yeongdong Dried Persimmon Festival | 영동곶감축제
- 6.5 Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival | 얼음나라 화천산천어축제
- 6.6 Pyeongchang Trout Festival | 평창송어축제
- 6.7 Inje Ice Fishing Festival | 인제빙어축제
- 6.8 Daegwallyeong Snow Festival | 대관령 눈꽃축제
- 6.9 Taebaeksan Snow Festival | 태백산 눈축제
- 6.10 Pocheon Dongjangkun Festival | 포천 백운계곡 동장군축제
- 7 Korea in January | What to Wear
- 8 Visiting Korea in January | Packing List
Visiting Korea in January
We still have relatively high tourist numbers for the first few weeks of January in Korea, as winter vacations around the world spill over into the new year. Things start to calm down a little from there, with the quietest tourist months of the year to come in February and up to mid-March.
If you can bear the sub-zero temperatures, mid-January or later is a great time to plan a trip to South Korea if you’re seeking a slightly less frantic travel experience.
Normally, I’d say it’s easier to book good value accommodation in popular neighbourhoods like Myeongdong and Hongdae in Korea in January, but there seems to be a major shortage of hotel rooms in Seoul these days. I advise you to book rooms as early as you can – particularly if you’re on a budget or looking for family rooms in the centre of Seoul.
Korea in January | Weather
January in South Korea is the depth of winter. This is the coldest month of the year, with average temperatures ranging from -6°C | 21°F to 1.5°C | 35°F.
Keep in mind that the temperatures you see in January are a bit misleading. It feels a LOT colder than the number would suggest, with a cold that sets into your bones, and freezing winds blowing in from Siberia.
It’s important to invest in the right gear to survive the Korea weather in January, or you’ll struggle while exploring the great outdoors.
The good news though, is that January in Korea also happens to be the month with the most snowfall. It’s the perfect time to head out to ski resorts, sledding hills, and any winter festivals that might have caught your attention.
Korea in January | Seoul Weather
It’s freezing cold in Seoul in January, with average temperatures ranging from -6°C | 21°F to 1.5°C | 35°F. It can get a lot colder at night though, with the mercury falling as low as -12°C.
There are around 5 days of snowfall in January, but it generally doesn’t stick around in the city, and only accumulates to around 30-mm | 1 inch over the whole month. Head to surrounding mountains, like Bukhansan, for a better chance of seeing a blanket of snow in Seoul.
* Personal note: I’ve lived in Seoul for the last 12 years, and I can’t remember a winter that’s been quite so cold or snowy before. It already snowed multiple times in December, and been so cold, that the Han River has already frozen over. Prepare serious winter gear if you’re headed to Korea in January.
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Korea in January | Travel Essentials
Wifi and SIM Cards
Money-Saving Transit and Transport Passes
Incheon Airport Transfers
City and Attraction Passes
Korea Weather in January | Busan
While Busan is warmer than other parts of Korea in January, it’s still the city’s coldest month. Average temperatures range from 1°C | 34°F to 6°C | 43°F. There’s practically zero chance of snowfall in Busan, but you can expect about 5 days of rain, totalling 14-mm.
Unless you’re one of the crazy Busan Polar Bears, it’s definitely not recommended to go swimming in Busan in January. The sea temperatures sits at a dangerous 15°C | 59°F. Head to the Busan SEA LIFE Aquarium instead to meet over 250 marine species, see a mermaid show, and play in their snowy playground.
SHORT ON TIME IN BUSAN? | Explore all the best attractions in Busan with this affordable tour to the Busan Skywalk, Gamcheon Culture Village, Songdo Cable Car, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, and more. Lunch and transport included. Check full details here.
Korea Weather in January | Pyeongchang (Gangwon-do)
The Korea weather in January in Gangwon-do Province is typically quite a bit cooler than in the interior. Pyeongchang in January has average temperatures ranging from a high of -3°C | 28°F to a low of -13°C | 9°F.
In my experience. it’ll feel a lot colder than that, especially if it’s windy, so be prepared with some super heavy-duty winter gear.
This region has quite a bit of snowfall, with approximately 5-cm of snow per week in January. It can be quite windy though, with wind speeds greater than 30-km per hour.
Korea Weather in January | Jeju Island
Like the rest of Korea, January is the coldest month for Jeju Island, with temperatures ranging from 3°C | 38°F to 8°C | 47°F.
There’s approximately 13 days of rain, totalling about 65-mm of precipitation. Despite the positive temperatures, Jeju does experience snowfall – especially at the peak of Hallasan and in other higher altitude regions.
If you’re visiting Jeju in January, be prepared for potential flight delays and cancellations, due to difficult weather conditions.
GETTING AROUND JEJU ISLAND | Public transit on Jeju Island is not as efficient as in Seoul. Distances are long, and it’s a lot slower, so most visitors either take day tours, hire a taxi, rent a car, or book a private car charter.
To rent a car as a traveller to Korea, you MUST have: a book type international driver’s permit (obtained in your home country), your passport, and your driver’s license from home. Check full details and availability of rental cars on Jeju Island here (reserve as early as possible for the best selection and prices).
Limited Edition Winter Tours in Korea
Don’t let the cold stop you from getting out and taking advantage of these special winter events and activities. They’re only available for a limited time, for 2 or 3 months of the year in Korea.
- Elysian Ski Resort + Nami Island + the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival | December 9th, 2022 – March 3rd, 2023
- Alpaca World + Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival | December 9th, 2022 – March 15th, 2023
- Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival, Snowy Land + Strawberry Picking | December 20th, 2022 – February 28th, 2023
- Vivaldi Park Snowy Land Sledding Tour | December 20th, 2022 – February 28th, 2023
- Eobi Ice Valley, Nami Island, and Strawberry Picking | December 21st, 2022 – January 30th, 2023
- Cheongyang Alps Village Ice Fountain Festival | December 26th, 2022 – February 10th, 2023
- Ice Fishing and Snowflake Tour in Gangwondo | January 1st – February 12th, 2023
- Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival Tour from Seoul | January 14th – 24th, 2023
- Skiing, Snowboarding, and Sledding Tours across Korea | Various dates
Korea in January | Public Holidays 2023
One of the country’s most important national public holidays happens in Korea in January. Seollal or Lunar New Year stretches from Saturday, January 21st to Tuesday, January 24th. At this time, there’s a mass exodus into and out of Seoul, as people visit their hometowns around the country.
These are days off for most Koreans, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble finding things to do. Most tourist sites and restaurants will be open to the public, and a number of special events will happen to mark Seollal.
If you’re planning to travel around South Korea near these dates, it’s very important that you book accommodation as far in advance as possible. With 25 million people potentially traveling in and out of Seoul at the exact same time, trains, buses and the best hotels in the best neighbourhoods get booked up fast.
Korea in January | Best Festivals and Events
As the month with the most snow and coldest weather, January in South Korea is a reliable time to have winter festivals that rely on sub-zero temperatures. From sunrise to snow sledding to ice fountain festivals, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.
To see weather and festivals for other months in Korea, check out the following guides:
- Korea in April: Chasing Cherry Blossoms
- Korea in May: In Full Bloom
- Korea in June: The Best Month of Summer
- Korea in July: The Peak of Summer
- Korea in August: Summer Vacation for EVERYONE!
- Korea in September: Autumn Relief
- Korea in October: Full on Fall Foliage
- Korea in November: Autumn to Winter Transition
- Korea in December: Christmas Lights Galore
Sunrise Festivals in Korea
Festival dates: December 31st, 2022 – January 1st, 2023
Address: Various locations
January in Korea begins with a number of sunrise festivals across the country. These are held to celebrate the dawn of a new year, with wishes made while watching the first, most powerful (to Koreans) sunrise of the year.
I’ve written about a number of these sunrise festivals in this guide to New Year’s Eve in Seoul, but here’s a few tours to look into if this is how you’d like to start a new year.
Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival | 칠갑산얼음분수축제
Festival dates: December 26th, 2022 – February 10th, 2023
Address: 175-11, Cheonjangho-gil, Cheongyang-gun, Chungcheongnam-do | 충청남도 청양군 정산면 천장호길 175-11
January in South Korea is probably the best month to go to the Alps Village Ice Fountain Festival near Cheongyang. It’s so cold at this time, that none of the fantastical ice sculptures will be anywhere close to melting.
You can also try out snow sledding, ice fishing, bobsleigh, ice sledding, a zip line, and delicious winter foods like fire-roasted sweet potato.
ICE FOUNTAIN FESTIVAL OR EOBI ICE VALLEY | Need to see a wall of ice? Choose between the Cheongyang Ice Fountain Festival or head to Eobi Ice Valley, along with Nami Island, and the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival. Check full details and availability here.
Haeundae Lighting Festival | 해운대 빛축제
Festival dates: until January 24th, 2023
Address: 264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Taking place in Korea in January for the 9th time, the Haeundae Lighting Festival features various lighting works. Don’t miss a large scale installation that looks just like the waves on Haeundae Beach.
Yeongdong Dried Persimmon Festival | 영동곶감축제
Festival dates: January 6th – 8th, 2023
Address: 1, Yeongdongcheon 2-gil, Yeongdong-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do | 충청북도 영동군 영동읍 영동천2길 1
Persimmons can be eaten year round, but during winter in Korea, the dried version is considered the most delicious. At the Yeongdong Dried Persimmon Festival, sample sweet, chewy, and nutritious “gotgam,” grown right in the area.
You can also listen to traditional music, see how gotgam are made, and shop at the traditional market, while at the festival.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival | 얼음나라 화천산천어축제
Festival dates: January 14th – 24th, 2023
Address: 137, Sancheoneo-gil, Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 화천군 화천읍 산천어길 137
Every January in Korea, Hwacheon is one of the first places to freeze over in winter. Hwacheon Stream becomes a thick sheet of ice perfect for fishing, skating, hockey, bobsledding and other cold-weather sports. If you’re brave enough, you can even try bare-handed fishing in the icy water.
The prime catch at the Hwacheon Ice Festival is the Sancheoneo fish. Full of vitamins, amino and fatty acids, it only survives in super clean, super cold water.
This festival site is close to Yongpyong and Alpensia ski resorts, so it would be easy to spend a day skiing and also visit the Ice Fishing Festival at the same time, if you’ve got your own transport.
HWACHEON ICE FISHING FESTIVAL | This Festival is very popular and day tours DO sell out in advance, since the dates are so limited. I recommend booking in advance if it’s somewhere you really want to go. Here’s a few options.
- All-inclusive day tour from Seoul to the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival (join-in group tour)
- Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival + Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival
- Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival Day Tour (4 people minimum booking)
Pyeongchang Trout Festival | 평창송어축제
Festival Dates: December 30th, 2022 – January 29th, 2023
Address: 3562, Gyeonggang-ro, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 평창군 진부면 경강로 3562
If the limited dates of the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival don’t work for you, don’t stress – former winter Olympics site, Pyeongchang in Gangwon-do also has a popular trout and ice fishing festival that lasts for nearly the entire month of January in Korea.
Inje Ice Fishing Festival | 인제빙어축제
Festival Dates: January 20th – 29th, 2023
Address: 555-2 beon-ji, Bupyeong-ri, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 인제군 남면 부평리 555-2번지
We checked out the Inje Ice Fishing Festival a few years ago. My daughter couldn’t get enough of trying to catch the tiny bingeoho fish. For a tasty treat, be sure to try it twiggim (battered and deep fried) style at one of the vendors near the ice field.
Daegwallyeong Snow Festival | 대관령 눈꽃축제
Festival dates: January 20th – 29th, 2023
Address:135-5, Daegwallyeong-ro, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 평창군 대관령면 대관령로 135-5 강원도 평창군 대관령면 대관령로 135-5
With rolling hills 700-m above sea level, the Daegwallyeong region is known as the “Asian Alps.” The popular Daegwallyeong Snowflake Festival is in its 28th year and features a winter wonderland of snowflakes and ice.
SNOW AND ICE FESTIVALS IN GANGWON-DO | Gangwon-do is the province to the east of Seoul, and it’s Korea’s kingdom of snow and ice. Choose from any of the following festivals to experience the best of winter in Korea. Get full details here.
- Pyeongchang Ice Fishing Festival | December 30th, 2022 to January 29th, 2023
- Inje Ice Fishing Festivals | January 20th to 29th, 2023
- Daegwallyeong Snowflake Festival | January 20th to 29th, 2023
Taebaeksan Snow Festival | 태백산 눈축제
Festival dates: January 27th – 31st, 2023
Address: 168, Cheonjedan-gil, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do | 강원도 태백시 천제단길 162 (소도동)
After 3 long years, the Taebaeksan Snow Festival returns this January in Korea. This festival takes over the tiny former coal boom town Taebaek City, and its namesake mountain Taebaeksan, with non-stop winter activities.
If you’re into large scale snow sculptures, sledding, and hiking, this is the winter festival to go to. Learn more on their website.
Pocheon Dongjangkun Festival | 포천 백운계곡 동장군축제
Festival dates: until February 5th, 2023
Address: 2381, Hwadong-ro, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 포천시 이동면 화동로 2381
Visit a land of snow and ice, where you can ice fish, ride a sled, or play traditional games. Don’t forget to eat some famous galbi (ribs) and makgeolli (rice wine) – which the region is famous for.
PS: You can ride that duck sled on Sanjeong Lake (also in Pocheon).
Korea in January | What to Wear
With frigid temperatures and gale-force winds, you’ll need a super warm winter parka, and heattech inner wear to survive the January weather in Korea. Hats, scarves, and mittens are also recommended to avoid turning into an icicle.
It gets a lot colder as the sun starts to set, so if you’re exploring Seoul at night, throwing a couple of hot packs into your pockets can be very helpful. These can be picked up for very cheap in any convenience store, Daiso, or supermarket.
It’ll likely snow multiple times before the end of January in South Korea. If the snow sticks around, it’s useful to wear some type of waterproof winter boots, with good tread. The streets can get pretty slippery.
I wear waterproof sneakers around Seoul, almost year-round. It’s enough for me, even in winter. But if I plan to be outside for a long period of time, or if the snowfall sticks around, I wear waterproof Uggs to keep my toes extra toasty.
Tips for What to Wear in Korea in January
Visiting Korea in January | Packing List
Here’s a rough guideline of items to pack for the Korea weather in January.
Bring from Home
- travel documents: passport, itineraries, hotel reservations, plane tickets, travel visas, insurance
- adaptor / plug
- long sleeved shirts, sweaters, hoodies, cardigans
- warm pants, fleece-lined leggings, thick tights
- winter skirts or dresses
- deodorant, feminine hygiene items
- comfortable running shoes for lots of walking (water resistant shoes are good at this time of year)
- warm winter boots if you plan to be outside a lot
- winter gear like a down jacket, scarf, mittens, gloves, and hat, snow pants if you plan to ski or snowboard
- any special medications you might need
Buy in Korea
- hot packs (at the convenience store or DAISO)
- gloves, scarves, and winter hats are cheap and easy to buy everywhere
- HEATTECH inner layers for warmth (Uniqlo)
- umbrella if it rains
- disposable air pollution / medical masks
- batteries / charging cables (super cheap at Daiso)
- skincare products like sunscreen (high quality and cheap in Korea!)
- eyeglasses and contact lenses can be purchased just by walking into a store (a free eye test will be provided)
- birth control can be purchased over the counter, without a prescription (but all brands may not be available)
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Korea in January: Essential Info and FAQs
All ready for the perfect trip to Korea in January? What have you got planned?