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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mysteries of Korea: fan death

Of all the fascinating things about Korea, very few intrigue me more than the random superstitions and urban legends. The United States certainly has its own but none seem to grip the nation the way fan death does here.

For those not in the know, fan death is a widely-held belief that if you go to sleep with a fan running, you will die during the night. The most common theory is that the circulating air lowers the room temperature, causing death by hypothermia. Korea's largest fan manufacturer prints a warning on its products: "This product may cause suffocation or hypothermia."

The Korean Consumer Protection Board even issued a press release in 2006 citing "asphysixation from electric fans and air conditioners" as one of the top five hazards of summer. Um, what?!

Now, I have no medical proof that fan death doesn't exist. I don't have any facts or charts or numbers to substantiate my claims.

What I do have is the presumably millions of people around the world who go to sleep with fans on at night and don't die. There's also the fact that Korea is the only country in the world that believes in fan death, yet many other countries routinely use electric fans. If this really was an issue, wouldn't it be more prevalent around the world?

Urban legends always give interesting insight into a country's culture. Whether its a belief in Bigfood or the Loch Ness Monster (I saw her!), it's a little something to add spice to the otherwise dull routine of life.

I wanted to ask some of my co-workers if they believe in fan death, but felt uncomfortable bringing it up just to turn around and trash it. So I didn't mention it.

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Just a few days after saying there hadn't been a thunderstorm in the 7 months I've lived here, we've had two in as many days. I guess we're heading into the rainy season.... Darn.