Fan Deaths

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Do you happen to sleep with an electric fan? Maybe you enjoy the breeze, or you simply like the gentle humming sound it has. Well, according to this legend, fans might end up suffocating you in your sleep if you don't be careful...

Wait. Before I continue this segment, let me explain. This legend isn't as serious as the other ones in this book. In fact, this one you may find funny, but also very depressing because it actually exists. That's for you to decide.

It's unsure when this legend began, but many believed it started around 1927, where an article was printed in South Korea titled "Strange Harms From Electric Fans" that fueled the paranoia of Koreans everywhere. Electric fans were just being introduced, and so many people were unsure of how they functioned. This article warned readers that keeping an electric fan on in a closed room could be fatal. Many believe that this article marks the time when this type of thinking began, but some date it back to later times.

But how exactly can a fan kill you? There are a few different theories that have been going around over the years. The most popular one is that an electric fan could suck the air out of the room, causing the person to die of asphyxiation. Some take this thinking a step further and believe that a fan converts oxygen molecules into carbon dioxide. 

Another way that fans can supposedly kill you is that when an electric fan blows air in a sealed room, the cold air will continuously circulate in the room rather than disperse. This could cause hypothermia and potentially become fatal.

Now, if you're scratching your head at how that makes any sense, don't worry- I'm there with you. But many Koreans chose to believe it, and still believe it in modern times. The Korea Consumer Protection Agency issued a safety alert on July 18, 2006. This alert warned readers of electric fans and included the following:

"If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air conditioners for too long, it causes bodies to lose water and hypothermia. If directly in contact with a fan, this could lead to death from increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration and decrease of oxygen concentration. The risks are higher for the elderly and patients with respiratory problems. From 2003-2005, 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."

Keep in mind that this agency is funded by the Korean government and that this is an official statement by them. They even proceeded to call fan death "asphyxiations" one of the nation's most five dangerous summer hazards.

In 2008, a professor named Chun Rim wanted to conduct an experiment to test the theory. Unable to find anyone willing to participate in the "dangerous" experiment, he decided to use his own 11-year-old daughter as the test subject. He checked his daughter's body temperature and blood pressure every five minutes throughout the night of the experiment. Unsurprisingly, she survived the night with the fan on, disproving the hypothesis. Ever since, the Rim family has slept rather peacefully with the fans on at night.

But even though Chun Rim did this experiment to prove further that Koreans had nothing to fear, many were still defiant and stuck to their beliefs. If it's hard to imagine why people would buy into this, try to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine being a young child in Korea and hearing from your own government that fan deaths are a thing. Not only that, but your parents also warn you about it as well. Because of this, you blatantly accept it and don't dare to question your parents. 

Luckily, with the help of the internet, many of Koreans that were once convinced are now slowly learning about the truth regarding electric fans. There have been accounts of Koreans doing looking it up on Google and discovering the hoax one way or another. One user on Reddit reported believing that fan deaths existed until they were twenty-four and decided to research it, only to find out that they've been lied to their entire life. Ken Jennings wrote in an article regarding fan deaths, "A recent email survey of contacts in Korea suggests to me that, among the younger generation anyway, the fan-death consensus has recently gone from 'Of course!' to 'Can you believe my parents used to tell us that?' A decade of Internet skepticism seems to have accomplished what the preceding 75 years could not: convinced a nation that Korean fan death is probably hot air."

But even though Koreans are beginning to realize the truth, some still wonder why the government backed the belief so much as to even state that fan deaths have occurred in the past. Some theorists believe that that this myth may have been kept around to cover up embarrassing deaths among families. With Korea being a hardworking society that judges easily, it's much less shameful to say that a person "somehow" died from a fan, rather than telling everyone that they died from alcohol poisoning or suicide.

If anyone has anymore reasons to why you believe this legend is still alive in modern times, please let me know in the comments. This whole ordeal fascinates me, especially the fact that it is still relevant.

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