Korean Fan Death

“So, growing up in a Korean household, I’d heard a lot about the dangers of leaving a fan on overnight. My grandparents, and to a lesser extent, my parents told me to turn off electric fans or to open a door/window before falling asleep. I think they believed that keeping the fan on in a closed room would somehow suck all of the air out of the room and suffocate you, as if the fan were a living creature.

I wasn’t sure where this started, but I’d heard about it stemming from wartime efforts where the government tried to limit electricity usage by convincing people to turn the fans off, something similar to how in England during WW1 they tried to get people to eat more carrots for vision or something.
You know sometimes it happens on the news, like every year they’ll report on it, but it usually turns out that each case actually has a different underlying reason, like natural causes or something. But asked my dad if this happened back in his day and he does remember this one case when he was a child, where they said that there was a bunch of people who died with electric fans on during a heatwave in the 1990’s, and they had a doctor say that “this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area, and . excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one’s temperature and hampers blood circulation, [leading] to the paralysis of heart and lungs.” I’m not a doctor, but I think it might’ve just been due to the heatwave at the time.”

This was an in-person interview with a friend of mine who told me about his experiences with this myth/legend from his culture. The text was taken from and recorded during our conversation.

Interpretation: This shows how, even though it’s scientifically disproven, a belief can persist in a culture by being passed down through each generation by word of mouth. The significance lies in its power of superstition as well as how it reflects culturally specific fears.