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SEOUL/JEJU, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- Cold wave warnings were issued across South Korea Monday with heavy snowfall expected in southern regions, as the country came under the grip of the season's coldest weather.
The cold wave alerts took effect for most of the country, including Seoul, starting at 9 p.m., the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said.
A cold wave warning is issued when the morning low is below minus 15 C for more than two consecutive days, or when the temperature drops sharply and major damage is expected.
Morning lows for Tuesday and Wednesday were expected to fall between minus 23 C and minus 25 C.
Heavy rains or snow were forecast to hit the southwestern regions of Jeolla, the southernmost island of Jeju, and the central western region of South Chungcheong Province.
The interior ministry said it activated the central disaster headquarters at its initial phase and had an emergency interagency meeting of government agencies to brace for the severe cold spell.
Morning lows for Seoul and Incheon, west of the capital, were expected at minus 17 C, but the wind chill temperature would be as low as minus 26 C to 28 C, the KMA said.
Many southern cities, including Ulsan, Daegu, Busan and Gwangju, and the southwestern provinces of Jeolla came under cold wave advisory earlier in the day, which is issued when the morning low is below minus 12 C for more than two days in a row, the KMA said.
The cold wave prompted air carriers to suspend domestic flight operations. Korean Air Co. said it was canceling all 44 flights scheduled to fly from the southernmost island of Jeju on Monday.
The air carrier said it is considering arranging special flights depending on weather conditions.
Jeju Air Co., a budget carrier, said it will suspend 40 flights flying out of Jeju, with the decision subject to change depending on the weather.
Heavy snowfall, of up to 30-50 centimeters, was expected to hit Jeju over the next few days, as the country was forecast to experience the cold wave.