Defying Fan Death – One Night at a Time

A couple years ago, some friends and I were sitting around, drinking mediocre beer at some hof in Jeju when the subject of fan death came up. The conversation went something like this:

Me:Fan death?”

Friend: “Yeah, Koreans won’t sleep with the fan on because they think it will kill them.”

Me: “No way. You’re kidding.”

Friend: “Nope. Ask anyone. They really think they’ll die.”

Me: “But how? That doesn’t make any sense. How would it kill them?

I imagined rogue fan blades flying through quiet bedrooms, severing heads and limbs.

Friend: “They think it steals their oxygen.”

Me: Speechless

The topic came up countless more times during my two years in Korea. Each time, I couldn’t believe an entire population could believe such ridiculousness.

My two fans. They haven’t killed me yet.

My favorites were the tales of heated arguments between American guys and their Korean girlfriends. The boyfriend, who wanted to use the fan on hot summer nights, would explain the scientific impossibility of death by oxygen-stealing fan. The girlfriend, fearing for her boyfriend’s life, would frantically insist that the fan could — and would — kill him in his sleep.

Well, I hate to break it to you Korea, but for the past four months, I’ve been sleeping with not one, but two fans, spinning at full force each and every night — and I’m still alive! In fact, I’m pretty sure that, if it weren’t for those fans, I would have overheated to death. (Yes, I know that’s not a thing.) So really, in my book, fans are life savers, not takers.

From Wikipedia: Fan death is a widely held belief in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those sleeping inside. All fans sold in South Korea come with an automatic timer that turns the fan off after a certain number of minutes. In general, scientific consensus holds that fan death is a myth.”

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that an entire technologically advanced country could hold on to such an absurd belief. But then, I guess it’s really no different than religion. I mean, some of those stories are truly preposterous … but we believe them anyway.

What crazy cultural beliefs have you discovered in your travels? 


9 thoughts on “Defying Fan Death – One Night at a Time

  1. LOL! I never sleep with the fan on, but that’s because the few times I did, I woke up with a neck pains 😉 I didn’t know about this South Korean superstition. Wow! The things you learn from the internet…

    When I was living in Ecuador, I bought a car and one of the first things I was asked was: Have you taken it to the Virgen del Quinche?
    Mmm, no. Why would I?*
    Well, apparently people bring their new/newly acquired vehicles there to receive a blessing.
    I had never heard of such thing being done with…. cars 😀

    *Sanctuario de la Virgen del Quinche

  2. This cracked me up! Chinese people have a lot of strange superstitions too! When living in China I was always told to drink hot water when I was sick, no matter the sickness.That’s the only one I can think of right now, but I’m sure there are at least 1,000 more.

    • That reminds me of another Korean weirdness: They believe it’s good for your health to eat super hot, super spicy soup on the hottest day of the year. Do they have a similar belief in China? If you think of more superstitions, please come back and share! 🙂

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