If you sleep in an enclosed room in Korea (which can get quite hot in the summer) with a fan on, you stand a good chance of dying from “fan death.”
They said that literally scores of Koreans told them this was true and had a variety of explanations for it: the fan would ‘chop up’ all the oxygen in the room and suffocate you, the fan created a vortex which drew the oxygen away from you and killed you, or the fan would cause hypothermia and kill you. I told them that there was absolutely no way at all that a developed, civilized country could believe anything that crazy.
Then I turned to Wikipedia, while ordering another coffee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_death
Not only is this apparently a very common urban legend in South Korea (and only South Korea, which is odd), but the South Korean government actually has promoted this theory — another aspect of this story that I didn’t believe from the girls. Here is that section from the Wikipedia entry, including a quote from the official South Korean government position.
“The Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB), a South Korean government-funded public agency, issued a consumer safety alert in 2006 warning that “asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners” was among South Korea’s five most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries, according to data they collected.Also included among the five hazards were air conditioner explosions and sanitation issues, including food poisoning and opportunistic pathogens harbored in air conditioners. The KCPB actually published the following:
If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air conditioners for too long, it causes [the] bodies to lose water and [causes] hypothermia. If directly in contact with [air current from] a fan, this could lead to death from [an] increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration [sic] and decrease of oxygen concentration. The risks are higher for the elderly and patients with respiratory problems. From 2003 [to] 2005, a total of 20 cases were reported through the CISS involving asphyxiations caused by leaving electric fans and air conditioners on while sleeping. To prevent asphyxiation, timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open.”
How weird is that?? North Korea? Sure, I’d believe it. But South Korea??