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Seoul battles heaviest snow in 70 years

Seoul residents battled the heaviest snowfall in modern Korean history after a winter storm dumped more than 10 inches Monday.
South Korea Snow
A South Korean man holds his bag to cover against heavy snow in Seoul on Monday.Lee Jin-man / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Seoul residents battled the heaviest snowfall in modern Korean history after a winter storm dumped more than 10 inches Monday, forcing airports to cancel flights and paralyzing traffic in South Korea's bustling capital.

The snowfall, which began about 1 a.m. (1600 GMT Sunday) and continue through Monday afternoon, was the worst since Korea began conducting meteorological surveys in 1937, the state weather agency said.

Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul canceled 224 flights before resuming service Monday afternoon, airport official Choi Choon-ja said.

More than 20 flights between Incheon International Airport, just west of Seoul, and cities in China also were canceled, with China also coping with a snowstorm. More than 100 flights to other regions were delayed, Incheon airport official Kang Soo-kyung said.

The snow and icy roads snarled traffic in and out of Seoul, with many commuters squeezing into packed subway trains to get to work. A regular Cabinet meeting also was delayed Monday because ministers were stuck in traffic.

About 3,600 workers were mobilized to clear the snow from Seoul's roads and sidewalks. About 5,000 soldiers also were dispatched to Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, according to the Defense Ministry.

Michelle Kwan cancels appearances
The snow didn't stop 50-year-old Park Hee-soon from her job delivering milk and yogurt to homes and offices in western Seoul. However, Park — trudging through the streets in her regular yellow uniform — said the snow and ice were dangerous.

"I slipped on streets several times today, and my back hurts because of that," she said.

The snow forced American figure skater Michelle Kwan to cancel appearances in South Korea on Monday. The five-time world champion, visiting the country as goodwill ambassador for the U.S. State Department, had been slated to give a master class to South Korean figure skaters.

She is scheduled to meet with students, U.S. soldiers and participate in a Special Olympics event this week, U.S. Embassy officials said.

Beijing digs out
Beijing also was digging out Monday from a weekend winter storm.

View images of wintry cold that rang in 2010 around the world – from the U.S. to Bangladesh.

More than 3 inches of snow accumulated in the city center Sunday, according to China's National Meteorological Center. State media called it the highest snowfall in the capital in a single day in January since 1951. Upward of 8 inches was recorded in the suburbs of Changping near the Great Wall of China.

Hundreds of flights from Beijing were canceled or delayed Sunday because of the snowfall.

Primary and middle schools were closed in Beijing and the nearby port of Tianjin, and with snow plows in short supply, more than 300,000 people were assigned to clear snow in the capital with shovels, scrapers and brooms.

Heavy snow also blanketed Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, forcing the main airport to cancel nearly 80 flights since last Wednesday.