[KS] Air conditioning and facial paralysis

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Tue Sep 19 09:04:07 EDT 2006

Dear all,
Thanks to everyone for the additional information, although I'm still not much closer to figuring out the answers I'm looking for on fan death. I  suspect that ideas about chungp'ung and so on helped render the idea more plausible, but they don't really help get to when the story originated and why it seems to have a Korean localization. Also, I'd heard the theory that the story may have spread as a result of government-initiated austerity measures in the post-War period but I imagine someone would have turned up clearer evidence if so. 
One thought I've had is that the notion of fan death got started in Korea as folk wisdom's summertime inverse parallel to the all too real wintertime deaths that resulted from yont'an briquettes, as David mentions below. This theory fits neatly into a structuralist framework of explanation and might explain why the idea of fan death is not present in China and Japan, where yont'an were used but presumably, not the danger they were in Korea as a result of ondol heating. If my yont'an hypothesis is full of holes (other than the 32 or so of the briquettes....), please feel free to correct me. My explanation might also account for an origin of the fan death story after the Korean War when the use of yont'an began to spread as their price came down and firewood grew more expensive. For more on yont'an, see the following piece from the always enlightening Andrei Lankov:  http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/opinion/200502/kt2005020319114654130.htm ). 
Btw, just one further note on chungp'ung: in Pak Wan-so's autobiographical novel, Who Ate Up All the Singa, she relates that her grandfather succumbed to dongp'ung in an outhouse (and that everyone knew that a case of dongp'ung that fell on someone in an outhouse was incurable). Was there a whole range of "winds" with differing types of stroke/paralysis?
Cheers, Stephen

From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws 이(가) 다음 사람 대신 보냄 David McCann
Sent: 2006-09-19 (화) 오후 8:57
To: Korean Studies Discussion List
Subject: Re: [KS] Air conditioning and facial paralysis

A related note:

Back in the days, in 1967 my family in Andong set up a heater for me in my room.  It was ondol 'heated,' but a bowl of water beside me on the table would freeze overnight.

The heater used charcoal briquettes, and seemed to do the job.  But one night, evidently, the wind came from an unexpected direction.  I woke up, barely, in the middle of the night, eyes streaming, mucous pouring, quite unable to do more than crawl over to the door and fall out onto the small porch outside.

I realized later how lucky I had been that those yont'an briquettes were so terribly full of impurities.  I think it was the sulfur that had saved me.  The newspapers carried fairly frequent stories of others who hadn't had such luck.

David McCann

On 9/18/06 4:02 PM, Edward Massengill wrote: 

	Just as I was getting a big kick out of teasing my Korean wife about the apparent absurdity of “death by fan” (which she believes) the picture was clouded by references to “cold air” and “paralysis”.


	Just a few weeks ago, one of my best friends told me that one night recently she inadvertently left her air conditioning system on very low. The next morning she woke up with paralysis (hopefully temporary but still present after more than a month) on one side of her face. Neither she nor her doctors are Korean.


	Edward Massengill

	Amateur Koreanist


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