Tag Archives: korea

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.

Korean saying: Green Bean Seeds, Red Bean Seeds

Nationality: Korean
Primary Language: Korean
Age: 50
Occupation: Country Branch Manager
Residence: Seoul, South Korea
Performance Date: 16 February 2024

Tags: green beans, red beans, seeds, agriculture, South Korea, proverb, saying, result


“콩심은데 콩나고, 팥심은데 팥난다.”

Literal: “You get green beans where you plant green bean seeds and you get red beans where you plan red bean seeds.”

Meaning: ‘Every result has its own reason.’


R is a born and raised South Korean. This is one of the sayings R taught me when growing up in Korea, along with a plethora of other proverbs and lessons. Apparently he had heard it from his father before him and so on, and it’s a pretty common Korean saying. R once said this to me when I forgot to bring my coat out one chilly winter afternoon and came down with a cold a few days later.


The English saying “You reap what you sow” might be a variant of this saying, as both are about agriculture and acquiring the direct result of your actions. Perhaps the cultural differences influence the way the saying is said (with Koreans using beans in many dishes and Western cultures liking simple, easy-to-say proverbs), while the meaning behind the sayings are shared worldwide.

Red Ginseng and Deer Antler

CONTEXT: HL is a second year student at USC, originally from Maryland. HL learned this practice from her grandparents, who she lived with until moving to Los Angeles. HL’s grandparents are both from Korea, which is where they learned this practice. HL’s relationship with this is that she does not believe it had any effect on her health and strength, but appreciates that her grandparents wanted that for her.


HL: So for some reason – in Korean culture – my grandparents would always have one of their siblings visit Korea and come back, and when they came back the would bring this syrup/juice thing that was made up of crushed up deer bones or some kind of big animal. It was the most bitter disgusting thing I had ever eaten in my entire life and I always knew when they opened the big red box that it was in there. So then I would have to drink this pouch of the crushed up bone juice, and they were like, “oh its so that you grow up to be healthy and strong” and stuff. So it’s a common East Asian herbal medicine thing. Yeah that was a tradition I grew up with. It would happen once or twice a year – whenever someone would go to Korea on vacation and come back. Probably from when I was about four to when I was ten. They prioritize it more for kids, and you can find these boxes with the pouches in HMART, like here I’ve seen them. They’re hidden away in a special area on a special shelf near the alcohol section. They’re like 100 or 200 dollars for a box of these pouches. I thought it was bullshit but I did it because they forced me too, or sometimes if I did it they would give me money. To specify, the pouches were actually red ginseng, other root things, and deer antlers, but I swear my grandpa told me it was bones.

ANALYSIS: This is an example of folk medicine, also related to life cycle, as it is primarily given to children. Red ginseng is native to Korea, as are deer, so both could be part of folk traditions going back many years. I do not know of the health benefits of either, but as with other folk medicine there could be medical benefits derived from them. HL said the mixture did not taste good, which can invoke a feeling that if it doesn’t taste good, but someone is drinking it anyway, then it must have some other benefit, such as health. It is a marker of life cycle, as HL said that this is mostly only done until 18. This folk medicine practice also serves as a way of passing down family practices and cultural heritage related to being Korean, as HL’s grandparents insisted she participate, which connects her to something they learned while growing up in Korea, while she was growing up in the US.

Korean Fanda

Background: Informant was born and raised and Seattle and is not religious and of white descent. 

Informant: My mom picked up on a Korean superstition that if you sleep with the fan on it’ll kill you…Korean fanda

Me: Interesting… do you know where your mom picked up on that? 

Informant: Yeah, she backpacked in North Korea after college.

Me: Ahh, I see. So… do you ever sleep with a fan on still? Does she?

Informant: Well, I always sleep with a fan on. It blocks out my tinnitus. But she never does. She hasn’t since.

Thoughts: I love how little superstitions are picked up on and spread just like that, and superstitions above anything else are most likely to stick, as they always include a negative outcome if something isn’t done. Whether or not it’s something that is wholeheartedly believed by people after hearing it once, it’s something that will undoubtedly be remembered and likely spread again, even if only as a little fun fact. Even though my informant continues to sleep with a fan on, it’s interesting to me that his mother still does not, and clearly it’s something he still thinks about.

Korean New Year

Main Text: 

Korean New Year 

Background on Informant: 

Currently a student, my informant grew up in a Korean household and has shared with me the many traditions she grew up practicing and experienced throughout her life. 


She explains:

“Korean New Year is based off the Korean calendar, and it is one of most important holidays we celebrate. 

It usually lasts for three days, the day before, the day itself, and the day after and begins either in January or February.

I know in South Korea it is of major importance to the point where businesses close for days and families honor their ancestors. 

Before we eat, we make sure to place offerings to our ancestors and then everyone in the family does deep bows as a sign of respect. 

For me, I usually gather with with family and friends and we do the traditional bow and we are given a ton of money. 

The traditional meal we eat is the Tteokguk, which is a soup with rice cakes, and symbolically once you eat it you are ‘one year older’. 

Technically we’re supposed to wear hanboks, which is our traditional clothing, but the tradition has evolved to the point where we just wear more westernized clothing. 

The feast is amazing, my mom makes so much food and leftovers usually last a week. 

While I do celebrate the Western New Year’s as well, I prefer the Korean one because we are spoiled with gifts and food.” 


I learned so much from my informant about Korean traditional culture and practices and found myself wanting to learn more. I love how a common trend is the three day celebration and how unlike in the USA the celebration is continued for multiple days. I have also observed how food plays a major role in Korean heritage and customs, as well as the symbolism behind each meal. I love how Koreans retain their cultural identity with their connection to the past and of course honoring their ancestors. Koreans values and traditions are a huge part of connecting with the past and allowing future generations to continue these practices.