Korean Fan Death Syndrome

The Korean Fan Death Syndrome is a typical culture bound syndrome. Koreans believe that during summer, in an enclosed room, an electric fan running directly on your body could kill you while you sleep. Elderly, children and people sleeping drunk are especially deemed at risk. To prevent this happening, all electric fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer button that turns them off after a set number of minutes. This is perceived as a life-saving function, particularly essential for bedtime use.

How does a simple electric fan kill you? Koreans can think of a number of possible explanations. The first is that if the fan is used directly on your body it causes suffocation, because the fast-moving air around your face makes inhalation difficult. Secondly, some Koreans also think that breathing through skin constitutes a significant proportion of breathing and the fast-moving air caused by the fan makes the skin-breathing difficult, leading to suffocation. The third explanation is hypothermia, (an abnormally low body temperature).
The origins of this syndrome are unclear, but fears about electric fans date almost to the time of their introduction in Korea, with stories dating to the 1920s and 1930s warning of the risks of nausea, asphyxiation, and facial paralysis from this 'new technology'.

In fact most of these deaths are from natural causes, such as cardiac arrest, while some deaths remain unexplained.

Korean media must take the blame for the persistence of this urban myth: each year inaccurate reports keep appearing in newspapers and on television, perpetuating the myth.

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