Fan Death and Tongue Cutting

image Fan Death is "the belief that if someone is sleeping in a sealed room (windows and doors are closed) with an electric fan on, they could die." The theory is that either hypothermia will get you, or the fan breeze will somehow form a vacuum around your mouth and suffocate you. Apparently many people in Korea believe this is true. Or at least, this is what Robin, the creator of, has concluded after living in Korea for five years. He writes:

When I first heard about fan death, I discussed it with my Korean friends and students. I was the foreign skeptic and they were the loyal natives. I was shocked at how powerful their belief was and at the lack of critical thinking about the issue. All you have to do is bring up the issue of fan death with a Korean and it would be difficult to get them to accept the fact that fan death might not be true. Especially when talking to a foreigner, they are more likely to defend their cultural belief than question it. So, unable to have a semi-neutral discussion, I turned to the internet. After checking the internet for more information about fan death, I became greatly frustrated. I could not find any detailed information about fan death. So, I decided to make this site to encourage others to tell their stories and share their knowledge about the issue.

Robin's site includes info about some other unusual Korean beliefs, such as tongue- cutting, which is the theory that if you cut the frenulum (the tissue linking the tongue to the floor of the mouth) "your tongue will be more flexible and be able to pronounce those difficult English sounds." Robin says that for this reason tongue surgery is quite popular in Korea.

Body Manipulation Death

Posted on Wed Mar 09, 2005


About how fans cool you, there's another effect beyond the evaporation of perspiration.

Since your body generates heat, the air near you gets hotter than the air in the rest of the room (regardless of the ambient temperature). Unless you're sleeping outdoors, in the absence of a fan this heat-build-up effect slows down cooling. A fan moves new (ambient temp) air next to you, so your body can more efficiently give up its heat.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Sat Mar 12, 2005  at  10:42 AM
Alex, I think Rod explained what I meant about the cooling/non-cooling temp of a fan.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  06:11 AM
"I only mentioned the paint thing because it was on another "Mythbuster" episode that they busted that myth" ...

I figured you were kidding, but it seems sad that anyone could actually believe such a thing, so that it would have to be busted.
Posted by Big Gary C  in  Fairbanks, Alaska  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  02:12 AM
they believe a lot...
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:01 AM
Here's the same article, with all of the facts scrubbed out...

And here's "an objective view about Korean culture".

"Dog meat dispute resurfaces
Submitted by Admin on Sun, 2005-03-13 23:34.
A government decision to impose strict regulations on processing and selling dog meat has reignited an old controversy over the traditional Koreans' practice of eating dog meat.
The Cabinet last Wednesday decided to draft measures that prohibit any brutal slaughtering of dogs and set hygiene guidelines on the processing and sale of dog meat."
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:22 AM
Oh, and on the same website...

"Volunteers hold online campaign for correct info about Korea
Submitted by Admin on Wed, 2005-03-09 00:08.

About 15,000 members of the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK), backed by 3,000 foreign members, have waged an online campaign to help foreigners have a better understanding of Korea."

I guess 18,000 people was not enough...
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:44 AM
And how does putting Robert Service quotes qualify as Korean culture????

"Daily Quote

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:48 AM
I mentioned the dog meat question recently to my English as a Second Language class for adults, which right now is made up almost entirely of Koreans, and they acted very surprised and emphatically and unanimously decalred that no one in Korea eats dogs.
Then the oldest member of the class spoke up though, and said that back during the war, when food was very scarce, some people did eat dogs.

I guess in a famine, most of us would eat dogs if necessary, but in my students' opinion, dog meat is not a part of traditional Korean cuisine.
Posted by Big Gary C  in  Fairbanks, Alaska  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  10:27 AM
Well, where do i start? I'm american, and married to a Korean. I knew about fan death and always knew it was kind of BS, if you will, so i never gave it much attention. Until one day when me and my wife went to visit her sister, who lives in an one-room apartment. It was summer, and summer in korea is hot, no i mean HOT. So we had to the fan running all day but as we laid down to go to sleep my sister-in-law turned it off. I politely asked that we keep it on as it was so hot, forgetting all about the murderous intentions that implied. In complete conviction and half horror she told me that was simply impossible. Then i remembered, so i tactifully told them, my wife was on her side, that they were full of shit. After three hours of arguing and pulling emails off the net from British, American, and Austraillian doctors of the absurdity of the "Fan Death" they were not at all convinced b/c they had statements from KOREAN doctors that stated otherwise. So in short, yes it's fascinating but you will never EVER convince them....think about it black cats are bad luck, right?
Posted by Russell  in  Yongsan, Korea  on  Mon Mar 21, 2005  at  08:34 PM
and oh yeah, buy the way...the reality show thing..i'm SERIOUSLY working on that...this is no shit...i'm talking to KBS now about getting on TV in a room with a fan...of course it's difficult convincing the TV Station that i'm not trying to commit suicide on national television...they are actually co-ordinating to see if they can have doctors on stand-by before they can OK this project, or else they won't do it.
Posted by Russell  in  Yongsan, Korea  on  Mon Mar 21, 2005  at  08:37 PM
My 7 year old daughter asked me today if it would be dangerous to sleep with electric fan on. I answered "could be" but I was unable to explain scientifically 'why' it could be. She must have been told her mother about this. Then I searched the internet and stumbled on this site.

Being a Korean myself I have grown reading abundant articles about 'fan death' on newspapers and I always have been warned not to leave the fan on while sleeping.

As I have read the posts here two things have struck my mind: cot death and the sensation of suffocation when you face strong wind.

No one seem to have clear scientific explanation to this mysterious death that happens lots of infants all around the world yet it is commonly accepted cause of death among yuong children. Is this a cultural myth or unsolved mystery thrashed into a categorisation. Cot death was virtually unheard of in Korean society until I learned it in England.

I have been told so called 'fan death' has something to do with the strong wind. Sometimes you feel this sens of suffocation at sea sidd on a windy day or on high in the mountain. I have felt this more than often in such places and thought I was breathless for a while.

The electric fans come in various speeds. I have never seen such fast speed fans here in England that I saw back in Korea (I have never seen any decent fans either in England) but the strongest wind speed on most Korean made can make you feel nearly breathless as seaside or mountain top wind, with youur face close to the fan.

I don't know if this could be the case and I am not intending to make any conclusion but if that is coupled with snoring and breathing stop symptoms many people suffer from, I think it could be deadly. I have been told that he snorings make air passage in the throat narrower than normal and it cause intermittent stops in breathing.

The advice given to Koreans was not exactly not to leave the fans on but to avoid strong high wind speed and direct and close contact with face while asleep.
Posted by Choi  in  London, UK  on  Sat Jun 25, 2005  at  04:36 PM
I for to mention something about the temperature and fan. Some people seem to argue that the fan doen't lower the temperature.

Our body constantly keeps our body temperature through perspiration in warmer-than-body condition. The electric fan could speed up this process.
Posted by Choi  in  London, UK  on  Sat Jun 25, 2005  at  04:52 PM
Cot death and fan death are really different. For one thing, cot death is by definition unexplained. It is not a 'cause' of death, as fan death is purported to be. Sure, several theories have been put forth to try to explain the phenomenon, but to my knowledge, no respectable member of the medical community has ever examined a case of cot death and instantly assumed that the cot was the cause.

Anyhow, I lived in Korea for six years and have come into contact with both fan death and tongue cutting. In the first case, I was working for a summer camp at a university which will remain nameless. Now, this was a boarding camp, and the kids wre lodged in the university's dorm rooms, which were not very well-ventilated even with the windows open. In addition, this was at the height of the summer, and even at night, the temperatures in the room approached 35 degrees celsius. What's more -- none of the students were provided with fans in their rooms, or even allowed to bring their own. There was a lot of speculaton amongst the teachers as to why the studens were not allowed even the minimal comfort of having an electric fan in their rooms, and we had pretty much agreed that it was probably due to the possibility of a fire hazard -- maybe someone was afraid that one of the fans would be left on and catch something on fire. However, I had the opportunity to speak with the camp director (a professor at the university), and I asked him why the students were not allowed fans in their rooms. His answer: fan death. Needless to say, I was floored. This was the first time I had ever heard the idea that a fan could kill you, and to hear such obious nonsense coming from a man with a Ph.D was so utterly unbelievable to me that I must have been standing thre with my mouth wide open. I tried to find out if he was joking, but nope... he was apparently completely serious.

On the bright side, though, that was pretty much the only encounter I had with fan death in my six years in Korea, so maybe the belief is dying out somewhat, and people like my 'educated' camp administrator will soon see how ludicrous they seem to the rest of us.

As to the tongue cutting thing... Yes, several of my students underwent this procedure. One of my students, who missed a week of class due to having his frenulum cut, came to school the next week, still obviously in a bit of pain. I asked him why he had been gone (and missed a quiz I had given the previous week) and he told me he had gotten his tongue clipped. My obvious thought at that time was "Well, gee... if you want to speak English more fluently, come to class and practice." In order to spare his feelings, however, I just nodded and let him schedule a make-up quiz.
Posted by Zonath  on  Sun Oct 30, 2005  at  01:38 PM
In response to your post, I have been unable to locate any of argument with reasoning against fan death syndrome. You said it rhetorically, but the only thing you said is that you don't believe it because you have never heard of it before.

The fan is not the cause of death as they have said, but as in cot death cases it is not the fan that actually cause the death but contributory factors that the fan create to the cuase of death.

It is quite comparable to cot death case in which cot is not the direct cause of death but conribute to increase of temperature or suffocation of children as people in medical circle suspects.
Posted by Choi  on  Sun Oct 30, 2005  at  02:01 PM
haha silentz, you're so stupid you make this site look good.
Posted by Boondocks  on  Thu Nov 03, 2005  at  07:56 PM
Don't worry, silentz is a friend of mine. It really is intriguing how these myths come about. For example arabs believe that if a fly falls into your beverage, then you should first completely dip the fly into the drink and THEN take it out, one wing holds a disease, and one holds the cure. Now THAT is peculiar.
Posted by Boondocks  on  Thu Nov 03, 2005  at  08:00 PM
i wouldnt drink the drink
Posted by me  in  canada  on  Sun Nov 27, 2005  at  12:07 PM
it will give you a longer tongue which is better for making out
Posted by joe  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  08:17 PM

I'm a Korean. I've my roommate as a French.
Since he bought a new fan in his room this summer, I'm anxious about him.
He doesn't care of my warning, & he argues that there's no risk to run it in closed room.
I don't know if he's using the fan on closing all the windows or not at night. Just in day time, I observe that he lets widely windows open.
I wonder if I find him in trouble on his bed in next morning.

Regularly each summer, I've heard of "fan deads" from daily news. They are not found other health problem on them, but have one strong common point among them. Just they kept their fan in closed room & they slept calmly inside.

You may unbelieve or laugh on our belief, coz while you are googling, no research is shown on net. Then, try to test by yourself. I'm not sure if you can still laugh next morning.

By the way, I searched articles about "ventilation". But all I found is :

Try to use altavista to translate its german language on:

If 4,5 milions of people are convinced to believe it, there're surely reason.

Just be careful. Don't take any risk.
Posted by lol  on  Thu Jul 27, 2006  at  05:25 PM
Hell. I Korean. Please no make joke this serious
matter. Many people think Korean stupid but we think different.

Summer time come many old people die many foolish people die. We all must understand Fan death very dangerous.

Some people no good like to go love hotel do not have good morals. Foreigners bring bad morals to Korea. We Koreans are good people. They bring prostitute into room. They don't care about fan death but death by fan is real.
Many intelligent doctors are Korean they know about Fan death. You had better listen to them. Fan death is nothing to fool arround with.

Fan death can kill you choose live treasure your life be careful of fan.
Posted by Kim Min Su  in  Seoul Korea  on  Mon Jul 02, 2007  at  10:48 PM
I sleep with a fan blowing on me every night through the summer months, and have for years. My husband sleeps with a fan blowing on him just about every night, fall, winter, spring and summer(to cover up noise because he's a light sleeper). Since I'm able to type this, I think you'll have to assume I'm alive and well, and you're just going to have to take my word for it that my husband is alive and well, too.

Fan death isn't real. It just doesn't make any sense. The fact that 4.5 million Koreans believe it doesn't make it real, just as the fact that millions of Americans believe that touching toads gives you warts doesn't make that real. Nor does the fact that until just a few years ago, millions of Americans thought getting a sun tan was healthy make that real either.

The plain fact is that millions of people -- Korean, American, whatever -- can be wrong. So whatever you do, don't cite that "but everybody believes it" and think you've proven anything. When you say, "But everybody knows," you are not saying, "It is proven."
Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Tue Jul 03, 2007  at  10:41 AM
lol ok, i am a habitual sleeper of fans, started when i was young and has carried on into adulthood. I have slept for almost 22 years with a fan in my room, door closed/ window closed, door open/window closed, window open/door closed, both open. I now find it difficult to sleep without my fan, its on about 365 days of the year for the last 9 years.(minus holidays at the parents.)if the air isn't moving i become restless, and ill at ease when i sleep, the air feels stagnant and heavy, i usually end up getting out of bed and sleeping in the front room because there is more air.. or so it seems. SO, if fan death was a reality, i must be a statistical anomaly, if thats so i should try sky diving from the space shuttle with out a parachute or oxygen. and in all likely hood the reason why old people die in the summer time is probably the heat, atleast that makes sense.
Posted by dan  in  calgary, alberta  on  Sun Aug 26, 2007  at  10:10 PM
ok, i'm sorry to promptly repost. But how is moving air reducing the amount of oxygen in a room? a fan isn't a vacuum that confines the air within the merely accelerates it for a short distant causing the air in a confined space to move. Now, the fan will consume the air if its on fire, thats a different thing all together. A fan will not cause molecular bonding, converting oxigen into C02 or carbon-monoxide, or water, if yours does, you have a miracle fan and its the tears of mary. now if you are operating a gas powered fan, lol you got bigger problems then fan death. But carbon-monoxide poisoning is a reality, and old people are dying in there sleep, it could be related to that... or they're old and it was bound to happen anyways.. they're old. if an infant dies in their sleep, its called S.I.D.S., which is also completely unrelated to "fan death". oh yeah, and up till about the age of 6 or 7 65 million americans believe in santa claus, so if there are this many people who convinced to believe it, there're surely reason. Other potential deaths, allergens, airborne viruses, an assortment of things can affect you in your sleep, so in reality i seriously can't see any reason to lose any sleep over "fan death". hiyoo hyuk hyuk hyuk.
Posted by Dan  in  calgry, alberta  on  Sun Aug 26, 2007  at  10:26 PM
A side note about the tounges.
If you hold your tounge on the roof of your mouth whilst doing pilates, or weight lifting, it is easier to maintain balance.

Maybe that response is something similar to the indian thing of being able to roll your tounge back?
Posted by Kate  in  Australia  on  Mon Sep 03, 2007  at  11:51 AM
It may be that, like the swimming thing, there are other motivations behind the origins. We were staying by a lake and had just eaten. Sprog wanted to go swimming but I wanted to lounge around for a bit after eating and didn't want to supervise. Handy excuse, no swimming after eating.

So drop back a bunch of years, fans are noisy, electricity (in Korea) is expensive. Sprog wants fan on to keep cool, parent doesn't want noise and/or expense. Parent tellse sprog that fans while sleeping are dangerous. A legend is born.
Posted by Rich  in  US  on  Tue Jul 15, 2008  at  08:00 AM
Comments: Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.