Post-89: Monsoon Season 2013 Comes Early

Monday June 17th was the first day of Monsoon Season 2013 in Korea. Monsoon season is “Jang-Ma” [장마] in Korean. This meant that endlessly-dreary overcast sky and intermittent rain defined the first two days of the work week.

PictureMonsoon rains in South Korea
June 10, 2011 (found online)

I had no idea, in early 2009 (before I first arrived), that there would be a “Monsoon season” here. Monsoons, I for some reason imagined, were limited to Southeast Asia. To my dismay and amusement, I experienced my share of running back or forth (to work or elsewhere) in an oppressive, pounding rain, around July 2009. / The Monsoon is not always oppressive or pounding, though. Pounding rain is, at least, exciting. Often, the Jang-Ma is just, well, endlessly dreary, day after day of steady rain and a blotted-out sky. I had students list words they associated with Jang-Ma/Monsoon. Nearly everyone came up with “depressing” or a variation.

I’ve been hearing that June 17th is early for the Monsoon season to begin. People are speculating about earlier arrival being connected with climate change. Travel books and guidebooks I’ve consulted over the years have said that the Monsoon season begins in July. Yet this year it began on June 17th. In casual googling to find an image to attach to this entry, I find that it began as early as June 10th in 2011!

I’ve read that the North Koreans chose to begin their offensive on June 25th of 1950 specifically with the Jang-Ma in mind. They wanted the critical first week of the war to be before the Monsoon season began. This would give them at least a week of good weather to capture Seoul and “bag” much of the South-Korea Army near the 38th parallel (both happened). The point is, NK planners were confident the Jang-Ma would come only in July. [In July 1950, when the Jang-Ma arrived, the pace of the NK offensive slowed considerably. I’ve read reports of the early U.S. battles, including the disastrous July-1950 defense of Daejeon. It ended not only in U.S. defeat/retreat, but with the capture of the U.S. general in command. U.S. accounts report near-daily, steady rain at that time. / Why did NK not attack earlier, if their aim was to avoid the Jang-Ma?  As far as I’ve read, they were getting all their ducks in order, vis-a-vis (1) Their recently-acquired T-34 tanks, and (2) the integration of the tens of thousands of crack Korean veterans of Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army who’d been streaming back into Korea from late-’49 to mid-’50.]

Is the Jang-Ma really all that bad? After the word-listing “brainstorming” activity I mention above, I made students write essays explaining what “Monsoon” is, good things about it, bad things about it, and “interesting” things about it.

A good thing, many said, was its cooling effect. Korean summer can be oppressively hot. The next few days call for clear skies and hot, around 85-90 Fahrenheit during the day (30 C and up). The next time ol’ Mr. Jang-Ma passes through, it’ll push the temperature down to the 70s or even high 60s! [20 C range].


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