Thursday, April 15, 2010

What the ... fan death?!?!?

Lousy asked for some guest writer to do something on fan death. If I didn't have my own blog I would have submitted this to her.

Fan death is a phenomenon peculiar to Korea. No other country believes in or suffers from this ummm what is a good word to use? Stupidity? Extreme lapse of logic? Problem! This problem. :)

Basically, Koreans believe that if you leave a fan (or air conditioner) on in a room with the windows closed you can die. It does this in various ways.

1) It creates a vortex that sucks out all the oxygen from the room creating a vaccum. (But if the room is sealed where does the oxygen go? )

2) It chops up all the oxygen particles in the air leaving none to breathe. (Who knew fans could split molecules!)

3) The fan uses up the oxygen in the room and creates fatal levels of carbon dioxide. (Except that fans don't create carbon dioxide.)

4) If the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing them from breathing. (Wouldn't that be blow the air away? And what avout the air it replaces it with?)

5) Fans contribute to hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. (Ummm ... yeah. )

6) Fans contribute to prolonged asphyxiation due to environmental oxygen displacement or carbon dioxide intoxication. (Mind you HOW really air tight is your apartment?)

7) That fans directly on the body deprives "skin-breathing," leading to suffocation. (Bwahahahahahaha!!!)

The Korean government and media perpetuate this myth every year. In fact the Korean Consumer Protection Board actually issued the statement:

"If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air conditioners for too long, it causes [the] bodies to lose water and [causes] hypothermia. If directly in contact with [air current from] a fan, this could lead to death from [an] increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration [sic] and decrease of oxygen concentration. The risks are higher for the elderly and patients with respiratory problems. From 2003 [to] 2005, a total of 20 cases were reported through the CISS involving asphyxiations caused by leaving electric fans and air conditioners on while sleeping. To prevent asphyxiation, timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open."

They actually said asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners was among South Korea's five most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries. Of course there were no autopsies to confirm this.

Ask a Korean did look into the idea of fan death. He believes he found proof it can happen. He did a good job looking into it and presenting his opinion. He actually may have found a reason to fear fan death. Unfortunately the reason he found ISN'T the reason why Koreans fear fan death.

Nor have there been any deaths proven to be caused by it. They just believe the BS they were handed down by someone older than them and repeat it no matter how stupid it makes them look. Sometimes it seems that Fan Death is just used as a way for the police and media to explain a death by unknown reasons. Several students (adult) have said that it is used in cases of suicide to cover it up.

Ever notice that no foreigner has ever died of fan death in Korea? But how could that be? Because when a foreigner dies there must be a full and proper autopsy (as I was told when a friend died). I guess foreigners are either stronger than Koreans or no Korean doctor would be stupid enough to sign off on fan death as a cause of death on an international death certificate.

It kind of reminds me of the "reason" why many Koreans shut off their lights when they actually stop for a red light. They believe it saves wear on the battery. No scientific fact behind it. Much like many of the problems Koreans have with Mad Cow Disease. Little fact and lots of fiction. And you just can't discuss these things rationally with them.

Once someone older has told Korerans something it never enters their mind that it might be wrong. Korean schools teach that there are only 6 continents not 7. I had students argue black and blue in the face that there are only 6. It didn't matter how much evidence to the contrary you showed them. It came down to the fact an older Korean authority figure told them so it must be true.

Whether it is a fact that diverges with reality or something silly like fan death Koreans grab on to the nugget and just can't let it go. Only in Korea.


  1. Fan death.
    What a weird thing to believe in. I talked to some students about this when we were discussing urban legends. Some of them stuck to their guns and refused to accept fan death was a myth. Others seemed to be willing to discuss it rationally, but who knows what they believe now?
    Can a foreigner actually know more than a Korean?

  2. It is a strange belief. One that I have found you can't discuss rationally with adult Koreans and I don't bother bringing up with the younger ones.

    Don't tell the Koreans but ... yes. A foreigner can. :)

  3. Which continent did they leave?

    Let me guess, was it Asia? Was it Europe?

  4. Ajay

    It was .... Antarctica. Although the same students thought (odds are still believe) that Africa is a country.

    This blind belief just because an older Korean told them reminds me of the way cults brainwash their "followers" into blindly following. In some ways it is just as dangerous.

  5. If I die in Korea, I hope it's from Fan Death. I want that on my death certificate.

    Last week my teacher told me that I have headaches because I don't open the windows enough. She said that there is 10% less oxygen and it kills your brain :/

  6. DC

    That would be an achievement. :)

    I love the way Koreans contradict themselves all the time. they will tell you it isn't healthy to have your window shut on one hand and on the other tell you that it isn't healthy to have ti open because of pollution.

  7. How about this nugget of "logic"- it's winter, the kids have their coats on in class, sweating because the heater is on. Do they take off their coats? No. They open the freaking windows!

    This is pretty basic stuff, something that a three year old could naturally figure out- but it seems to evade the grasp of most Koreans.

  8. Anonymous

    Yeah, I have experienced that first hand. Although they didn't open the window instead they whined for me to turn on the air conditioner. When I said take off your jacket they decided it was better to suffer the heat than take the jacket off. Strangee.