Culture Superstitions & Myths

“Fan Death” – Why Koreans believe leaving the fan on while sleeping will kill you?

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fan death the silent killer

Can you guess the leading cause of death in the summer in Korea? Naturally, you’d think things like heat stroke, dehydration, and drowning (from drunk-swimming at pool parties) when the mercury can go above the 40 degrees Celsius mark (104 degrees in Fahrenheit) during the dog day.

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But Koreans would put on the top of the list something you never expected: The Fan Death. First and foremost, it refers to the electric fans and not the lethal hand-held fans made of sharp sheet metal used by lady Kung Fu masters. Secondly, it’s not the blades of the electric fans that cause direct physical damage to kill people. The way those evil electric fans kill people is sneakier than you think. The fan death is a belief among Korean people that sleeping with an electric fan running in a closed room with no windows open will kill the person. Proposed causes are hypothermia (body temperature is abnormally lowered by the fan), asphyxiation (suffocating due to oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide intoxication), and facial paralysis. Back in 2006, The Korea Consumer Protection Board official issued a consumer safety alert, stating that “asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners” was among the five leading causes of death in Korea. There have been numerous attempts by the scientific and the medical circles to debunk the urban legend, arguing that such claimed deaths were a mere coincidence, and a case of false attribution bias – they died of other natural causes but it was the running fan in the room that took the fall. But the belief is so widely held that the Korean news channels still report cases of fan death every year.

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Still worried? Get this Beautiful Korean Traditional Hand Fan [Amazon] as it can’t kill you.


Congratulations! You just signed the lease contract for your new apartment in Seoul and it’s time to fix the best moving date! Upon calling many different moving companies for a rate quote, you quickly discover that the prices fluctuate, with some days going as high as double or triple the price of other days, but can’t quite figure out what the reason is. Sometimes it’s the weekend, and sometimes it just falls on the “hump day” of the week. Befuddled, you call your go-to Korean buddy and he explains what’s going on. “In Korea, people have a belief that evil spirits will get in your way on the day of moving, and even follow you to your new home! According to Korean folklore, this evil spirit, called son (pronounced the same as “hand” in Korean), is a nasty evil spirit that roams around the four points of the compass depending on the day of the week and finds fun in bothering and harassing humans! But luckily, they’re known to keep regular hours during their workdays. Every month on the lunar calendar, they are active in the East on the 1st and 2nd, in the South on the 3rd and 4th, in the West on the 5th and 6th, and in the North on the 7th and 8th. They go up into the heavens and are away from the office on the 9th, 10th, 19th, 20th, 29th, and 30th. And these are the days to shoot for. These days are called son eopneunnal 없는날 (day without evil spirit), and people would pay a premium to reserve these days, thereby driving the price up on those days. Well, now you know the whole story and the decision is yours to make! Would you shell out a few more bucks to make sure that no evil spirits follow you to your new place? Maybe you don’t give a rat’s behind and rather keep that money for a home party? Whatever the case, just don’t put Mr. Son on the guest list if you’re inviting me.

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