What is Korean Fan Death and is it Real?

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The term Korean fan death certainly sounds rather concerning and ominous, and anyone from that culture will firmly attest the majority of the culture’s faith that the phenomenon is a very real thing. Here we will explore exactly what Korean fan death means and its origins, and try to discern whether the entire concept is fact, fiction or somewhere in between.

Korean Fan Death in the Korean Culture

Korean fan death is a belief that when one runs an electric fan like a pedestal fanfloor fan, or even an air purifier fan in a closed space without any widows or doors opened to gain fresh air, they will die. There is strong evidence to support that most South Koreans hold this belief, but no studies have been able to gather evidence from North Korean citizens. However, there are small populations in Russia and Japan that also believe in fan death. Interestingly, it appears as though this cultural belief came about shortly after Koreans were introduced to electric fans.

Is Korean Fan Death Real or a Myth?

After the citizens got a hold of these types of fans, they couldn’t wait to use them. Hence, it appears they were using them so much that burdened electrical systems were struggling to keep up with the flow. Rumors began to circulate that running them specifically while sleeping overnight could be fatal, a tidbit many believe was propagated by the government itself due to the energy crisis around 1970.

Then a man was supposedly discovered dead in a room with all the doors and windows shut with two electrical fans operating. Since then, the stories fueled into a trend worthy of news stories—particularly in the country’s hot summer months. In fact, the Korean media and government report on numerous stories supporting the ‘lethal-breeze’ concept. The country’s Consumer Protection Board actually listed “asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners” as a leading recurring summer accident in 2006. Strangely, this belief only seems to be regarding fans and not other similar items like space heaters.

While there is no scientific evidence to support the mystery surrounding Korean fan death, it is possible that electric fans can cause death in certain situations. After long periods of use in an enclosed room, oxygen deficiency could occur, or the unit could overheat and start a fire and cause dangerous carbon monoxide. There is also the possibility of hypothermia should the climate become too cold in an enclosed space. Beyond that, the lethal breeze of Korean fan death is most likely a myth. But Koreans aren’t alone in wind-perishing lore, as many cultures have their own twist on the breeze and well-being concerns.

The Woes of Wind Around the World

Beyond Korea, there seems to have been numerous wind-related illnesses and woes all around the globe according to lore. Here are a few beliefs that will blow your mind.

  • China—Some Chinese ancient texts of medicine had warnings of ‘wind stupidity’ and ‘wind insanity.’
  • America—Almost everyone has been warned to avoid going outdoors with wet hair due to the risk of ‘catching a chill.’
  • Italy—Similarly to the American’s warning, Italians often don scarves to stave off a hit of air or colpo d’aria.
  • Czech Republic—Illnesses such as rheumatism are thought to hail from wind and air sourced by refrigerators and air conditioners.

While these may seem odd and are actually not rooted in much information backed by science, these ‘cultural syndromes’ are most likely self-perpetuated. Essentially, the belief in these syndromes being ‘real’ can result in what is medically acknowledged as the ‘nocebo effect,’ whereas those negative thoughts can result in the fulfillment of such expectations.

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