Korean Cultural Quirk #3: Fan Death

The leading causes of death in South Korea are cancer and suicide. Unfortunately, all of the kimchi and acidic salty food turns on Koreans when stomach cancer strikes. And with a highly competitive work and education society, Korea’s suicide rate is at an all time high. However, Koreans fear of dying in another way that did not make the top 10 causes of death. No, not car accidents, choking, nor natural disasters, but electric fans.


Right, fans. You know, the wonderful energy-saving device used in warm temperatures to circulate the  room and cool you off? Koreans, and only Koreans, have a particular belief that one can die by sleeping with an electric fan blowing air directly on you in an enclosed room. This seemingly silly fear is not simply an old wives’ tale; all Koreans believe it and even reports on the news pop up about people dying from fans.

“Arguing the cause of death puts fans in the `death ‘also took place in Gwangju. one day last month, 31 days, according to the police station in northern Guangzhou 17:00 40 DEAR Yongdu – dong, Buk, Gwangju grandmother in an apartment in (25) ‘s house that Cho Cho them dead brother (26) found, was reported to the police. found naked at the time of his jackets and Cho Cho was down on the floor next to the fan was turned on, police said.” – http://news.donga.com/3//20080801/8610427/1

There are several theories that Koreans use to rationalize this fear. First, fans can cause hypothermia by cooling the body down to dangerously low temperatures. Additionally, fans may cause suffocation by removing the surrounding air like a vacuuming, leaving little air for you to breathe, resulting in death.  There are other theories like carbon dioxide intoxication and hyperthermia (yes, opposite of the other theory, hypothermia). None of this research has been scientifically proven, but Korean doctors and researchers are looking for answers.

People ridicule Koreans for believing in such “nonsense”, but I think fan death is cute and harmless. So they crack a window open or set a timer on the fan, they’re minding their own business! Besides, every culture believes in something strange to outsiders and unproven by science.


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