Informant: There’s a Korean word for it but I’m pretty shit at Korean. I don’t know it at all. But essentially, um, there’s this phrase that means “fan-death.” So essentially what it is, is there’s like this Korean superstition, not to have a fan on you. Like you can have a ceiling fan. It just usually refers to those like portable electric fans. And you can’t have it blowing towards you or on you, or else that will cause, like, uh… Asphyxia, choking and death. But they made an actual word for it and it’s an actual, like, medical term for it.


Informant: I actually kind of believe it myself cause when I was younger, uh… I had a fan––I was just like chillin’ on the couch–––and I had a fan on next to me… And then I woke up later that day with just like a super dry throat, and my mom, who is Korean, was like, “That’s what you get! You avoided fan-death and that stuff can kill you.” So that’s like something I’ll always remember about Korean tradition… I don’t know where it comes from though… I’m sure that like some Korean person died, coincidentally had a fan on, and people put two and two together.


Once, on a very hot day, I kept a fan near the head of my bed. When I woke the next morning, I experienced uncomfortably dry eyes, a dry throat, and dry skin. As such, I could instantly relate to the informant’s story about waking up with a dry throat. The difference is that my father––who is Caucasian and raised in the U.S.––told me this dryness was because the fan was drying out the air near me, whereas the informant’s mother––who grew up in Korea––told him about fan-death. This demonstrates that shared experiences may be interpreted differently depending on culture and heritage. My Korean informant and I experienced a similar event, but perceived it differently. To my Caucasian family it was a matter of dry skin, taken for granted as a non-threatening event. To the Korean informant and his mother it was a matter of life-and-death. Yet the informant and I performed the same response: avoiding turning fans towards ourselves. Folk beliefs then create separate paths that people of varying cultures may take to reach the same destination; the informant and I perform the same way, but for different reasons (his reasoning involving a much deeper fear).