In the midst of a severe heat wave, South Korea is facing a terrible energy crisis. And so, in an effort to save power, the government has taken the step of prohibiting the use of air conditioners – the very devices that few of us would ever dream of going without at this time of year – in public buildings for a number of days.
At the height of the summer, illicit activities and forged test certificates for a number of vital parts at one of Korea’s nuclear power plants were exposed, forcing the plant to cease operations until further notice. This caused an electricity shortage at precisely the moment the country most needs power to keep cool.
Now, the Korean government has ordered that for three days starting August 12, public buildings are prohibited from using their air conditioning units. This measure is intended to help avert an even greater power crisis, but the effect it has on shops, businesses and schools is still quite large. At one of the universities in Seoul, indoor room temperatures reached upwards of 31°C (about 88°F) without the help of coolers.
In a press conference on August 11, Yoon Sang-jick, Korea’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, stated that if any more nuclear plants were to cease operations, the country would be forced to rely on scheduled blackouts to conserve energy.
I still remember the rolling blackouts that Japan faced after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, but cannot even begin to imagine suffering those same circumstances in the boiling heat of summer. At least the ban on public air conditioning ends today, and, if all goes well, the people will be able to conserve enough power that this is the worst they will have to face.