Korean Fan Death

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as DS.

DS: In korea, if you sleep with the fan on, there’s a myth that you’ll die.
BD: Why?
DS: I don’t know.
BD: Who told you this?
DS: My mom.
BD: Where did she get it from?
DS: Her mom.
BD: Is it common in other Korean households?
DS: Yes, it’s very common. But everyone thinks of it as a joke.
BD: Does your mom actually believe it?
DS: No, she doesn’t. But she still always tells me to turn the fan off when I sleep.


Upon hearing this piece of folklore, I had thought it had a very clear scientific basis of belief—a fan would provide a slight breeze as one sleeps. Thus they could catch a cold and get very sick. But after reading more about this idea, Koreans do not have a clear scientific backing behind what they call “fan death.” They believe electric fans can actually kill people. The Atlantic discusses fan death and its origins in a recent article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/05/is-this-going-to-kill-me-fan-death-korea/528243/. Historically, a man had been found dead with two fans in his room. Frank Bures, a writer on illnesses, believes this incident is from where the belief stems, but we really do not know for sure.