Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Perhaps the word is finally getting out about fan death, because KBS have a story, with video, on their website calling it into question. It seems that they took healthy male volunteers - well, one presumes they volunteered (pressure in Korean companies can be extreme) - and had them sleep in a closed room. One had an air conditioning unit on all night, another a standard electric fan, and the third nothing at all. The result, no deaths, one bleary-eyed volunteer who hadn't slept very well due to the stuffiness of his room, another volunteer who'd had a very comfortable night, and the last one who'd found the conditions reasonable (they actually measured sleep efficacy but I'm not certain how). No prizes for guessing which volunteer was which.

This is not very scientific of course but they also measured the subjects' body oxygen and temperature levels and found that the oxygen didn't go to a level where it was harmful, and body temperatures didn't drop to a level where hypothermia would set in and kill the sleeping victim. If these notions sound bizarre, that's the power of Korean urban legend for you. The results:

body oxygensleep efficacybody temperature
Electric fan94%85%37
Air conditioning94%95%36.3

In other words, fans don't use up the oxygen in a closed room, the air isn't sucked away from under the nose causing suffocation(!), and body temperatures don't plummet to dangerous levels. Korean Mother says she's not yet convinced, but we're going to show her the video next time she comes round to see if the KBS report can change her mind.

Of course, three people is hardly a scientific sample size, and a fairer study would no doubt involve more people, more time, and certainly more soju to accurately reflect the realities of life in Korea.

Intriguingly, I read that the notion of 'fan death' really gained traction in public mind around the time of the energy crises in the 1970s. If true, one wonders if this didn't play into the hands of a government trying to manage supply, if indeed there wasn't deeper involvement in its creation.

Korean keywords: 선풍기, 죽음, 건강, 에어컨


daeguowl said...

If you look at those stats you're actually more likely to die without any form of cooling...

Aaron said...

"... the notion of 'fan death' really gained traction in public mind around the time of the energy crises in the 1970s."

My wife's pet theory has long been that Park Jung-Hee cooked up the fan death myth as a way to bring down electricity usage amongst Koreans. If true, I wonder if this says more about Park's guile or the public's gullibility. Probably the latter.

Post a Comment