A Uniquely Korean Household Worry
Which household gadget do people in South Korea believe can kill you?
(C) Electric fan.
(D) Portable CD player.
The correct answer is C.
It sounds like the plot of an “X-Files” episode: People are said to have died merely from leaving their electric fans blowing overnight. But across South Korea, many people believe the whirring blades can cause death — and to address those fears, manufacturers equip fans with sleep timers.
How, exactly, might the electric breeze kill? Theories abound in South Korea, among them that the cold air circulating in a sealed room could cause hypothermia, leading to organ failure. Or maybe they suck out the oxygen, causing suffocation. Some fear that the fan itself converts oxygen molecules into carbon dioxide.
For the record, none of these theories are true. But that has not stopped the Korean news media from reporting on supposed fan deaths. Even the government has endorsed the lethal-breeze idea. In 2006, the state-funded Korean Consumer Protection Board listed “asphyxiation from electric fans and air-conditioners” as one of the top five recurring summer accidents.
在此声明，这些理论没有一个是真的。不过，这不妨碍韩国新闻媒体持续报道所谓的风扇致死事件。就连政府也为这种风扇致死理论背书。2006年，由政府资助的韩国消费者保护委员会(Korean Consumer Protection Board)将“电扇和空调引发的窒息”列为夏季最常见的五类事故之一。
The agency warned:
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.
According to the advisory, there were 20 cases of fan asphyxiation between 2003 and 2005. “To prevent asphyxiation,” it said, “timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open.”
Among dubious Koreans and, well, everyone outside Samsung’s homeland, it is widely suspected that “fan death” was a ruse hatched by the country’s former authoritarian government in the 1970s to discourage citizens from using too much electricity. The country has since been transformed into a thriving democracy, but the myth proved to be a match for electric fans: It survived.