Fan death- seriously?

When I came back from the Philippines it was already cold enough in Taiwan that I needed something to make sitting at the computer a little more palatable. My superthick blanket is enough for sleep, but I decided to pick up an electric heater. Now, I had just read this article on Yahoo Japan, which says that an 82 year old man in Yamagata City has been hospitalized in serious condition to to carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from a loose rubber hose on a Matsushita (aka Panasonic aka National) oil heat-fan. Despite the fact that I was shopping for an electric and not oil heater, I avoided Panasonic products like the plague.

Earlier today, I glanced at Kushibo’s blog and saw this post about fan death, which I’d never heard of before. Fan death is apparently a very silly Korean urban myth that an electric fan can create “a vortex, which sucks the oxygen from the enclosed and sealed room and creates a partial vacuum inside” or possibly “suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing.”

It’s claimed that this legend has spread to surrounding Asian countries, but the closest thing I’ve heard in Japan is that having an electric fan on you at night can make you catch cold, which is the kind of thing that a grandmother in any country might say without sounding like a vortex-phobe. The fact that the Wikipedia page exists only in English and Korean also seems to indicate that it may not have much of a presence in other countries, although I am at least a little surprised that no enterprising Japanese wikinerd has translated the article as fodder for making fun of Koreans.

2 thoughts on “Fan death- seriously?”

  1. According to this site (a site dedicated to dispelling medical urban legends in Japan), the fan death superstition is well-known in Japan, but no one takes it seriously. That might explain why we gaijin never heard about it. To quote:

    ‘Without even bringing up Korea, the legend of “You will die if you sleep with the fan on” is well-known in Japan as well. It’s been told to me more times than I can count, but I’ve never adhered to it. It’s enough for me to think it rare for there to be a rule such as this that so many people believe but almost never actually follow. It will likely be an interesting phenomenon as people do things that break this [superstition] but just the belief itself continues to be passed down.’

  2. Hey, MF (which, of course, stands for “mutant frog”), you gave the link to my blog, not to the post itself, which is here.

    Adamu, thanks for the info. Could it be that fan death is a holdover from the occupation period, or an import from more-developed Japan in the 1950s or 1960s? Anyway, I guess this can’t be called an OINK (only in Korea) thing, I guess.

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