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Winter Returns to Pyongyang with More Bite than Last Year

In this Jan. 18, 2016 image made from video, North Koreans stand on the frozen Taedong River as a man, right, ice fishes in Pyongyang, North Korea.

A cold snap in the North Korean capital has residents ice fishing on the Taedong River.

The whole country was colder than minus 10 C (14 F) on Tuesday, and the North's official weather forecaster predicted that Pyongyang would sink to minus 16 C (3 F) on Wednesday.

"This kind of cold can come once or twice a year,'' said Ri Yong Nam of the State Hydro-Meteorological Agency. "It seems that the 'Taehan' has not forgotten and now it's here.''

Taehan means "great cold,'' and North Koreans are quite familiar with it.

Small groups of men brave the cold to squat on the frozen Taedong River running through central Pyongyang in hopes of catching a few fish. They hack holes through 40 centimeters (16 inches) of ice to send thin lines into the water below.

A man pulls out a tiny reward, a fish called sokari in Korean, golden Mandarin fish in English.

Surviving the cold

Thermal underwear, multiple layers, big coats, hats and hoods, scarves and gloves to cover any remaining exposed skin are necessary to survive the winter in Pyongyang. And there is only so much one can do to come in from the cold: North Korea's power shortages mean that few public buildings, homes and offices have much heating.

Strong winds have made the cold much more biting in Pyongyang over the past few days, but Wednesday was a relief from the wind and much calmer. Ri said this winter is colder than the last, and the worst is still to come, with temperatures expected to drop further over the weekend.

After that it should get warmer, although warmer means closer to the freezing point.