Halloween photo credit: CricketMad on Flickr


Halloween 2011, I got an invitation to a Halloween party. A week prior to Halloween, in fact. The party was hosted by Chris, a friend’s friend, an English teacher in Seoul. He had only one rule: no animal costume. Because it’s too easy.

What to do?


The costume I end up with: a victim of Fan Death.

I was thinking maybe I could do a dead-looking makeup, but we weren’t going to stay there for a long time, so I just wore normal cloth and made this huge nametag to wear. Everyone at the party laughed at the sign, so I believe it was a success. It would not work in anywhere in the world but Korea.

So now is the time that I have to explain why this is funny, apparently, to everyone?



Why Fan Death?

Fan death is a widely held belief prevailing in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside. Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.”

Believe it or not.

But the timer is a good way to save the energy, no?


I didn’t recognize how big issue this is until my friend Luke Martin pointed out on his very popular comic book about Korea: ROKetship. (FYI: It’s a published comic book. If you are an ESL teacher in Korea, or  anywhere in Asia, visit the page and look through his comics. He’s extremely talented.)

One of the surveys he did with his readers, mainly English teachers in Korea, was ‘The strange urban legend of Korea.’ And guess what? Fan death was one of the top 3 answers. Apparently, it was a running joke among English teachers in Korea.



So, do I believe it?

Scientifically, no. I don’t believe fan death is scientifically possible.

As a superstition? Maybe. I was little bit uncomfortable to dress up as a victim of fan death because it felt like I was making fun of my own people.

If I don’t believe it, then why I was uncomfortable? Even though this is one of the most ridiculous things ever, if people believe it as a truth, there’s nothing I can do about it. I told them why this is scientifically impossible whoever mentioned fan death, but I know it will take time to change how people think nation-wise. Though, it has been quite a while since I’ve heard about fan death. It’s not even an issue anymore. But, my grandmother was concerned and warned me every night in summer when I was little. She didn’t say I could die, just she thought it was not healthy to turn the fan on all night. So I perfectly know fan death is scientifically wrong, however it is still the thing that my grandmother believed. That’s why I’m protective of my own people’s idiosyncrasy.


Not everything in the world can be scientifically proved. Urban legend, religion, tradition… whatever in different format. There are customs and traditions that even locals don’t know where it came from. This week’s #TTOT was about ‘Customs around the world’. Just little things, even if we don’t believe it, or even if we are against it, sometimes there’s just nothing we can do but watch and learn. At least be not judgemental. Isn’t that the whole point of travel? See and learn how people live in different parts of the world.


Although I will not turn off the fan because I’m afraid to die, I will think about grandma.


Disclosure: Though I claimed as I deliberately made it to be wicked, but you are right. Yes. I spelled wrong, victum instead of victim, so I made it German style with two dots on U. Please don’t judge me.



31 thoughts on “Why I Dressed up as ‘a Victim of Fan Death’ for Halloween”

  1. Wait a minute. You’re telling me Fan Death may just be an urban legend?! I hope you don’t plan on writing about the Tooth Ferry, or Santa Clause. I just don’t think I could take any more Reality shattering. Actually, you’ll be interested to know that I teach in a windowless classroom with a fan; each and every one of my kids survived the summer session. Well, except for little Sunny Kim. But her grandmother must have forgotten to tell her about the importance of using a comma because we were doing this grammar assignment one day and she started reading a paragraph trying to correct all the errors and she kept talking and talking and suddenly her face got really red and I tried to run over to the wall to turn off the fan but it was too late she was already gone. Punctuation is a killer.

    1. I can totally picture now mock-umentary went. But what the weird thing is, how little kids believe this, since I’ve never met anyone who believe this in my generation. Where did they hear from?!

  2. OMG Juno– is this for real? Fan death is the craziest urban legend I have ever heard! I think just about every American without an AC blasts an electric fan all night long in the summer. Maybe the evil spell only works in Korea 🙂 Love the costume idea– want to see a picture of you in it!

    1. Yeah apparently, this was a big deal and I didn’t even know that. You see why a lot of English teachers here are thinking how odd this is? haha! And that photo was me! That was my nametag I wore…

  3. Love the costume! I taught English in Korea and I remember being shocked to hear about “fan death”. A teacher I worked with told me she didn’t believe in it, but when I asked if she would leave a fan on she said she wouldn’t “just in case” 🙂 It’s funny how much a belief, even if it isn’t logical and they don’t really believe it, can still influence people.

  4. Great costume idea Juno. Something really unique. 🙂

    Oh boy, I’d be in trouble if I lived in South Korea! I sleep with an electric fan on every night to keep the air circulating in my bedroom, even in winter!

    Hope you had a great Halloween!

  5. I definitely knew all about Fan Death when I was in Korea. My friends and even hogwon owner warned us about not keeping the door closed if we had the fan on at night. And the fans come with cartoon warnings (in Korean) warning about using the timer or the air molecules get get divided in a way that you couldn’t get enough oxygen.

    Great costume, Juno – I’m sure everyone at the party loved it! 🙂

    1. I seriously don’t understand how people scientifically prove fan death and how even tried to. I mean, seriously? This is the result of brain washing! 🙂
      Hope it will become just a little anecdote that we could all laugh about.

  6. I understand it because here in Turkey, they believe that air con makes you sick. When the mother in law comes round, I sit there dripping in sweat while there is a air con unit sitting on the wall!

    1. Ha, really? I’m not getting along with AC, so I use fan every summer. Maybe let her know about fan death and maybe she will become a fan of AC! 🙂

  7. You see why a lot of English teachers here are thinking how odd this is? Hope it will become just a little anecdote that we could all laugh about.

  8. It’s the result of years and years of brain washing by fan death….. Great costume, Juno – I’m sure everyone at the party loved it! Hope it will become just a little anecdote that we could all laugh about. Confirm you are NOT a robot!

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