Severe cold hits China, S.Korea

Temperatures have dropped sharply in parts of China and South Korea after the season's coldest air mass hit the East Asian countries.

Chinese state media say the temperature hit minus 53 degrees Celsius, the lowest ever in the country, on Sunday in the northeast province of Heilongjiang.

Beijing had clear skies on Tuesday, but the city's temperature in the morning was forecast to drop to minus 13 degrees. Many people were wearing hats in the bitter cold.

Officials are calling on people to take thorough measures against severe cold in the country, whose Lunar New Year holidays began last weekend.

Much of South Korea is also in a cold spell, with temperatures dropping to minus 16.4 degrees on Tuesday morning in Seoul.

Snow and strong winds grounded all flights on the southern island of Jeju on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Monday night called on relevant ministries and agencies to take thorough safety measures.

In North Korea, state-run television forecast on Monday night that temperatures would drop to minus 20 degrees in the capital Pyongyang on Tuesday morning.

Weather officials in the country expect the most severe cold since 2001.