Fan Death: Korea's silent killer

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Gwangju,
Thursday, July 15, 2010

This will be short, because it is a subject beloved by all foreigners living in South Korea, and therefore exhaustivly written about.  If you're really intersted in this subject, and not just my thoughts and ramblings, Ill let you begin and wikipedia (clearly written by some disgruntled hagwon teacher) and surf from there.  If not, here is my 2 cents.

Fan death is a belief held nearly unanimously in South Korean, and yes, only in South Korea.  It is a phenomenon where fans left running in a closed rooms overnight magically kill those inside, especially during the hot and humid Korean summer.  As summer is on, fan death is forcast to rise, and I'm sure many deaths, especially of elderly people will be blamed on moveable electric fans in the coming months.

A conversation with a typical Korean (and this includes many intelligent people) will go something like this:

Me: So, what is fan death?
Korean: When the fan kills you, in a room.
Me: Do you believe in this?
Korean: Of course!  It's real!
Me: How does it work?
Korean (A): It takes the air away!
Korean (B): It makes you too cold.
Korean (C): Science says it kills.
Me: Do you know Koreans are the only people who believe this?  Nobody else in the world beleives this.
Korean: It only happens in Korea?!?

This myth is so ingrained, Koreans refuse to belive otherwise.  To be fair, the myths constantly supported by government-sponsored public service announcements, and is prominently displayed in reputable doctor's clinics throughout Korea.  So, how can a country of over-educated people believe such nonesenese?

Of course, Americans believe that global warming doesn't exist because it continues to snow in winter... but, that aside, look at the issue at hand.

Let's deal with the simple fan death explainations:

1. Taking away the air.  This is reputedly acocomplished by either creating a vortex, or converting all the oxygen to carbon dioxide.  Any small house fan is too small to create a vortex, and if you really think about it...for two seconds...you will come to the conclusion that house fans don't actually convert oxygen to carbon dioxide.  This process takes place on a cellular level, and is not possible by spinning metal blades.

2. Hypothermia.  This may be where the myth began, becuase scientist (at least those who say they are posting on the internet) agree that this could happen, but only in extremely specific and incredible conditions.  People survive much much colder situations in cold conditions, and a common house fan would be hard pressed to create the conditions needed for a hypothermic death.  

Most "fan deaths" are probably caused by heart related issues, or age-related death.  Fan death may seems just to be the favorite summer scapegoat.
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