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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The North

Today I came a mere stones throw from North Korea. Near a town called 반주 or 바주 or something they've built this observation deck so people can look through binoculars and try to see what's going on over there. Koreans talk a lot about unification and many are hoping the North and South will come together again someday. This observation place has all kinds of stuff from North Korea that you can buy. I was told most of it is overpriced and of inferior quality.

I like how mysterious it looks with all that fog. That's the fog of Communism, which is emitted from Kim Jung Il's mind. But there's no need to worry, because between pick-up games of basketball, these guys at this military base keep a watchful eye on the border.

Korea sends their tallest, strongest, and most awesome looking army guys to the military bases along the border.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fan Death

Anyone who reads the words "fan death" nowadays will probably assume it has something to do with Michael Jackson groupies slaying themselves for grief. It is in fact completely unrelated and more interesting. It is the reason that no well brought up Korean would ever dare sleep while a fan or air conditioner is running.

I heard about it from Lewis first, who had heard it mentioned by his co-teacher (aka Candy). I asked my co-teacher and she confirmed this fear with such heartfelt faith I suspect she would prefer sleeping in a room full of roaring lions to one with whirring fans.

Now, it's not that Koreans have an unusual tolerance for heat and humidity and developed these superstitions in disinterest. They are very unable to handle the heat. Since they can't sleep they go down to the rivers, drink 소주 and complain about the weather. The risk of sleeping with a fan or air conditioner is so perilous it's simply not an option.

Being the child of the enlightenment that I am, I questioned these beliefs. (Initially I also questioned the Korean tradition that 삼갑살 -kind of like a thick marinated bacon- clears pollutants from your respiratory system, but I decided I should eat it just to be safe).
The reasons given me by my co-teacher were almost identical with those outlined in Wikipedia article on Fan death. The first and most plausible sounding cause of fan death is dehydration excelled by use of a fan at already high temperatures. But in Korea this is not the most popular reason to fear fans. I too prefer imaging a fan-made vortex of air choking me with its anthropomorphic hands.

It doesn't add up that a country exporting hundreds of billions worth of electronics could be so uniformly sold on such an empirically unsound conviction. Maybe there's something to it? Maybe fan death really does happen all the time and we've just been lucky fools. But seeing as I already bought a fan, I think I'll just take my chances.