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Archive for the ‘Legends’ Category

Fan Death, Death by Fan, Korean Urban Legends, from a non-Korean Perspective:

Electronic Portable Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that shuts off the fan after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to do when sleeping with a fan in their room.  This “safety” modification is not unlike the convenient feature I enjoy with the fans operated within my home during the hot Virginian evenings and its cool mornings.  It’s nice to not have to turn off the fan in the morning.  However there is a common fear of a running fan which I believe is perpetuated by irresponsible media reporting.

Korean urban legend states too many options by which one could fall victim to killer electric fans.  Some of these include the belief that:

–          The fan creates a vacuum in a sealed room thereby causing suffocation due to lack of oxygen.
–          The fan slices up all the oxygen and therefore causes suffocation.
–          The fan uses up the supply of oxygen causing suffocation.
–          The fan pointed at the face will prevent oxygen from being inhaled.
–          The fan contributes to hypothermia, extreme low body temperature, essentially freezing the victim.
–          The fan prevents the skin from breathing and therefore suffocating the victim
–          The fan contributes to oxygen displacement in general.

Of course to most of us, these are simply absurd.  So let’s ignore the fantastic (pun intended), and discuss a rational health safety concern.  There is a point where a fan is ineffective due to being operated within a sealed room without proper ventilation.  To most people this is common sense of course.  It’s the concept of forced convection cooling; using a fan to move the air from a colder outside air concentration to a hotter indoor concentration or exhausted from the hotter indoor concentration.  It is Newton’s Law of Cooling which describes the rate of heat loss of a body and contributes the rate of cooling to be proportionate to the surrounding environment.  Using Newton’s Law we can reason that it is not probable that a portable electric fan could not effect a change in the ambient temperature great enough or quick enough to cause hypothermia.  The converse of this would be hyperthermia.

Definition: Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. When the elevated body temperatures are sufficiently high, hyperthermia is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent disability or death.

Hyperthermia is the only plausible area to be concerned, but I fail to have found it documented amongst Korean cautions about portable electronic fan use or their contribution to fatalities (by fan).  It follows however that if a sealed room, already at a greater temperature than the body can withstand, is running an electronic fan it would not be effective in cooling the body or the sealed room.  Portable electronic fans simple move air, pushing the air, no matter the temperature.  Therefore, a fan would simple move the hot air over a body attempting to cool itself.  Without replenishing water, the human body will suffer of course.

EPA Excessive Heat Events Guidebook, Appendix B: Use of Portable Electric Fans during Excessive Heat Events, “Don’t use a portable electric fan in a closed room without windows or doors open to the outside.”

EPA Excessive Heat Events Guidebook, Appendix C: Excessive Heat EventsGuidebook in Brief, “Don’t direct the flow of portable electric fans toward [you] when room temperature is hotter than 90°f.”

It is important [for believers of Korean urban legend] to understand the explanation of why this is not recommended.  To reiterate, when the body temperature reaches about 40°C, (104°F) or if the affected person is unconscious or showing signs of confusion, hyperthermia can occur.  Hyperthermia is considered a medical emergency that requires treatment in a proper medical facility. In a hospital, more aggressive cooling measures are available, including intravenous hydration, gastric lavage with iced saline, and even hemodialysis to cool the blood.

EPA Excessive Heat Events Guidebook, Page 37, 4.2.2 Provide information on proper use of portable electric fans during EHEs, “The TWG also strongly recommends that, as part of a public education program, cities emphasize that portable electric fans are not the simple cooling solution they appear to be. Because of the limits of conduction and convection, using a portable electric fan alone when heat index temperatures exceed 99°f actually increases the heat stress the body must respond to by blowing air that is warmer than the ideal body temperature over the skin surface (American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs, 1997; CDC, 2004c). In these conditions, portable electric fans provide a cooling effect by evaporating sweat. The increased circulation of hot air and increased sweat evaporation can, however, speed the onset of heat-attributable conditions (e.g., heat exhaustion).”

The Guidebook goes on to explain prevention; “Thus, portable electric fans need to be used with caution and under specific circumstances during an EHE, such as exhausting hot air from a room or drawing in cooler air through an open window. Generally, portable electric fans may not be a practical and safe cooling mechanism during an EHE in homes that are already hot and are not air-conditioned; their use should be discouraged unless the fans are bringing in significantly cooler air from outside the dwelling. If a resident must stay in these dwellings, and if they are unable to access an air-conditioned environment, safer cooling approaches would include taking frequent cool showers and drinking cool, nonalcoholic fluids (e.g., ice water). Because of the importance of this issue, and the contradictory messages people may have received about using portable electric fans during EHEs, Appendix B provides a series of guidelines for fan use during EHEs.”

Fan death is comical to most non-Koreans because it just doesn’t make much sense and most of the urban legend beliefs are incredible and isolated within Korean urban legend.  Furthermore, common sense states that it is the elderly (above 65 years) as well as infants and children or people already suffering from chronic medical conditions who are more prone to heat stress.  Notwithstanding, it is good advice for everyone to drink plenty of water and other fluids as well as turning on a fan or dehumidifying air conditioning unit on the affected person for it may improve the effectiveness of the body’s evaporative cooling mechanisms (sweating).

Finally, it is an individual’s responsibility to get informed; get the facts.  It is the duty of public officials to provide reliable and well-founded safety information.  Citizens should review the various educational messages about EHEs for consistency with other messages and information on other issues.

…jus’ say’n.

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CSA – Canadian Standards Approved
DHS U.S. – Department of Homeland Security
EHE – excessive heat event
EMS – emergency medical service
EPA U.S. – Environmental Protection Agency
NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NWS – National Weather Service
PCA – Philadelphia Corporation for Aging
SMSA  – standard metropolitan statistical area
SSC – spatial synoptic classification
TWG – Technical Working Group
UL – Underwriter Laboratories


“Fan Death.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

“Newton’s Law of Cooling.” Undergrad Mathematics. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

“Excessive Heat Events Guidebook.” Excessive Heat Events Guidebook. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 24 May 2006. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

Philadelphia Office of Mental Health & Mental Retardation. 2002. Fan Facts. Philadelphia, PA.

Toronto Public Health. 2002. Summer Safety: Fan Facts. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

“CDC Extreme Heat.” CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response Site. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

“CDC Extreme Heat | A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety.” CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response Site. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

“Hyperthermia.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <;.

2005 Korean Action film, 무영검, Romanized as Mu Yeong Geom (Moo Young Gkeom) “The Shadowless Sword”

One of my all-time favorite action movies is a 2005 Korean Action film, 무영검, Romanized as Mu Yeong Geom (Moo Young Gkeom). It is known as “The Shadowless Sword” in English speaking countries. Mu Yeong Geom is set around the end of the Balhae Kingdom of Northeast China (Khitai (English Cathay) or Manchuria), which extended down to the Northern part of the current Korean peninsula. When Balhae fell, the Northern region went to the Liao Dynasty and the Southern region went to the Kingdom of Goryeo. (Goryeo is derived from one of the three kingdoms of Korea, Goguryeo. The English name “Korea” is a derivative of this name.) What follows is the political foundation for the plot of Mu Yeong Geom.

In the late 9th century, the incompletely unified region of The Three Kingdoms weakened as it became more populous with burglars, outlaws and assassins, which created a highly volatile state leading to civil war and rebellion. In 926, the capital of Balhae fell to Georan (거란). On the territory Georan founded a new country called Dongranguk (동란국), which means ‘Georan of East’. Although defeated by the Khitans, the survivors of Balhae kept struggling fiercely to restore their country.

Mu Yeong Geom is set during the early 10th century, one year after the fall of Balhae. A vindictive Khitan assassin, Kun, has killed off the entire royal lineage of Balhae except for one prince, Jeong-Hyeon. Kun’s antagonist Soha, is the heroine who is an expert swordswoman devoted to finding and protecting the 15-year-exiled prince, and furthermore, returning him safely to rule.

The chase is quite predictable through the cities and countryside. Mu Yeong Geom bemuses with a full complement of creative martial arts, fast sword play, and fantasy akin to that of the movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, i.e. a lot of flying and fighting. Action enthusiasts will not be bored. That being stated, there is a hint of romance drama thrown in for character development. Unlike Crouching Tiger, Mu Yeong Geom’s action is oftentimes quite frenetic and so a bit confusing even to most experts. To say, there could have been better use of camera angles, editing and lighting. I am particularly a fan of this movie due to the costumes (no, they’re not pirate costumes!), mild humor, the historical references, and the right amount of sexiness. If you’re a martial arts flick fanatic, then you will not be disappointed.

이 놈이! 거저 먹을 생각이냐?
You rat! That’s too cheap! (hey guy~ do you think to get free?)

부탁이랄 게 뭐 있 나 … 내가 더 고맙지.
That’s no favor… I thank you.


The Legend of Tan-Gun

(Click to watch)

Legend has it that Hwan-ung, the son of Hwan-in (who was the God of All and the ruler of Heaven), yearned to live on Earth among the valleys and the mountains. His father sent him and 3,000 helpers to rule Earth and provide humans with great happiness.

Hwan-ung descended to Mount T’aebaeksan on the border between Manchuria and what is now North Korea. He named the place Shinshi, City of God. Along with his ministers of clouds, rain, and wind, he instituted laws and moral codes and taught the humans various arts, medicine, and agriculture.

A tiger and a bear living in a cave together prayed to become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwan-ung called them to him and gave them 20 cloves of garlic and a bunch of mugwort. He then ordered them to only eat this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days. The tiger shortly gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained true and after 21 days was transformed into a woman.

The bear-woman was very grateful and made offerings to Hwan-ung. However, lacking a companion she soon became sad and prayed beneath sandalwood tree to be blessed with a child. Hwan-ung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a handsome son. They named him Tan-gun, meaning “Altar Prince” or sandalwood.

Tan-gun developed into a wise and powerful leader and in 2333 BC moved to P’yongyang and established the Choson (“Land of the Morning Calm”) Kingdom. Finally, at the age of 1,908, he returned to T’aebaeksan where he became a mountain god.

(Recently, in a move to try to legitimize itself, the North Korean government claimed it had found and excavated the burial site for Tan-gun.)

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