Thursday, September 23, 2004

Finally a Korean News Source discussing 'Fan Death' as a myth

UPDATE: Welcome to wikipedia users. I'm not sure why you were sent here but you are in luck: The wikipedia article on Fan Death also quotes Dr Yeon dong-su, a professor at my university (really, I didn't write the wikipedia article). I recorded an interview with him in Sept of 2006 and you can find it here.

Most foreigners in Korea eventually learn about 'fan death'. Koreans will straight-facedly explain that using a fan at night in a closed room could kill you. They give two possible reasons; hypothermia and lack of oxygen. There have apparently been TV shows with doctors scientifically describing how it happens.

Strangely, it only happens here.

From the article in the Joongang Ilbo:

Another stiflingly hot summer has come and gone
in Korea, and with it, the risk of dying by electric fan.
If you've never heard of death by electric fan, you're
probably not from here. Every summer, mainstream
Korean newspapers carry reports of people dying after
sleeping in a room with the electric fan on and the doors
and windows closed. A search of the jouncing Ilbo's archives
reveals stories about fan death dating back to the early 1970s.
A July 9, 1973, story describes how a 20-year-old man was
found dead in the morning after going to sleep with two fans
turned on and the rooms windows and door shut. The story
also describes a mysterious jar of chemicals found in the room
but does not explain what it was. A wider search of Korean
newspapers shows that each summer from 1990 to 2004,
about 10 stories related to someone dying in the presence
of an electric fan were published. Some of the deaths were
chalked up to electrical failure of the fan and related fires,
but many of them said the victims died from suffocation
or hypothermia because the windows and doors were closed.

Further in the article, a man from the land of cold, in what may be the coldest city in the world was quoted:

Gord Giesbrecht, a physical education professor at the
University of Manitoba in Canada, is a leading expert on
hypothermia. He said he has never heard of fan death or
anything like it. "It's hard to imagine, because to die of
hypothermia, [one's body temperature] would have to
get down to 28, drop by 10 degrees overnight. We've got
people lying in snowbanks overnight here in Winnipeg
and they survive," he said.

There was another article at an online newspaper called 'ulsanpear' and listed as but the link isn't working for me now.


Grim42 said...

I had an extended conversation about this very thing with my students a couple weeks ago. Now, these are normally pretty smart people who speak with a certain amount of fluency and even eloquency at some points in English, but every single one of them, in complete seriousness, insisted that "fan death" was a scientific fact. I probably shouldn't have laughed out loud, but I couldn't contain myself.

During the discussion, I told them that no other country had ever recorded a case of "fan death". After several moments of deep consideration, they concluded that it was because Western rooms were bigger, and thus the vaccuum produced would not reach the size necessary endanger the would-be victim of the electric fan.

I shouldn't have laughed at that point either. ;)

Anonymous said...

interesting... it's scary how differences in cultures affect people. To be pretty honest, i believed that myth until yesterday (yes, i'm also a gullible korean american) but i suppose it's hard to reject an idea you've believed in all your life (i still don't think i'll feel very comfortable sleeping with the fan on). Still, i solemnly swear to change people's minds when i move back to korea next year :)

BlueDevil said...

I don't think you are taking this phenomenon seriously enough.

Where I come from, it is well known that having too many good ideas can cause your foot to fall off.

You may dismiss this, but it happened to my uncle. He had the good idea of cutting his toenails with an axe - and his foot fell off.

So be careful if you're having too many good ideas. And be careful about sleeping in a room with a fan.

It's a dangerous world out there!


Anonymous said...

Every culture has crazy superstitions. Someone should create a web page of them. In Canada and the USA, many buildings skip the 13th floor. When we read the crazy superstitions of others, we may be inclined to drop our own superstitions.

Anonymous said...

yeah, laugh all you want about fan death, but us over in the western world have something just as retarded.

Believing that mobile phones used at gas stations will make them explode.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"Where I come from, it is well known that having too many good ideas can cause your foot to fall off.

You may dismiss this, but it happened to my uncle. He had the good idea of cutting his toenails with an axe - and his foot fell off."

Stolen from black adder. Check it out, great show.