Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Korean Medicine

At first, I thought it was just dumb luck, but soon I began to realize that it's just what Koreans do. As someone who is very publicly sick, my co-workers and family feel the need to share their non-medically supported tips on getting better fast. Here are some of my favorites:

7) Don't sleep with the fan on. *(see note)

6) Do not drink cold water. It is bad for your lungs. (...?)

5) You should not jogging anymore because it makes you sick [sic].

4) Drink less. (Because I have fluid in my chest. So by not drinking, I will not add to the fluid.)

3) You should not shower because it is not good for you.

2) You should not go out at night because the cold air (it falls to a whopping 68-degrees at night) is bad for your lungs.

1) You should not sleep for more than 8 hours a day. Too much sleeping is bad for you.

*The fan thing is actually comical. A popular Korean urban legend says that sleeping with the fan on in an enclosed room will lead to asphyxiation; the fan (1) keeps blowing the air that you breathe out, so you'll run out of oxygen after a while or (2) cuts up the oxygen molecules. It's called the Korean Fan Death, look it up. I think the same idea is behind the "don't sleep with the fan on" thing: it just keeps blowing the germs right back at you.

Here's a little exerpt: "The Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB), a South Korean government-funded public agency, issued a consumer safety alert in 2006 warning that "asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners" was among South Korea's five most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries, according to data they collected."

2006. A government agency.

I mostly humor these suggestions with an appreciative head nod. But the sleeping one and the shower one I said, "Oh. Actually, in America I sleep a lot and get better faster." and "Oh. Showers make me feel better, so I will still shower everyday."

Every morning the school nurse gives me this bottle of thick, brown liquid (oriental medicine, she calls it) everyday and watches me drink it. The taste isn't too bad, but it's more of a texture thing. But, I actually think it works so I'm gonna keep choking it down.

Kind of funny, huh? It actually made me start to wonder how American home remedies would sound to foreigners. Like drinking 7Up when you feel sick to your stomach, sleeping with a vaporizer or with VICS smeared across your chest, gargling 3 times a day or eating chicken soup. They seem like no-brainers to us, but maybe they're just as crazy-sounding as the Korean Fan Death. Okay, maybe not that crazy. But odd in the least.


  1. To this day, I have trouble sleeping with the fan on - power of repetition or superstition? I had not heard the other ones but "do not go out with wet hair into the cold air" is probably behind the "no shower" advice. Most traditionally heated (with warm air ducts below the floor) homes had cool/cold air in the winter - maybe warm floor but the air was cold in general and showering/bathing involves "cooling" afterwards. I think that has some basis because of the body temperature changes involved. I was always told not to go out with hair wet. Majid still tries to warn the kids not to do that. There were more (not related to colds) - "no sweets after eating crab meat", "always cover your tummy while sleeping, otherwise you have tummy ache"...

    And yes, they love giving these special advices. I found that it was similar in Iran. I think every culture has these home remedies and what-not-to-do's (some sound, some not so much), but the difference is that the culture there (and Iran maybe) allows and maybe even encourages people to share them more freely. The older cultures probably have more wacky sounding ones. Somebody should catalog them into a book - it will make an interesting read.

    Hope the mystery medicine is working for you.

  2. Very funny.

    Someone mentioned the "jogging" word in relation to you? OMG: I hope you set them straight!! What an insult.

    And your mother's favorite piece of medical advice: take vitamin c. It actually works!

  3. Young Mi, please do not take offense at this, I love you dearly. But Amy, when I heard you were going to Korea, I thought holy shit! Those people can be CRAZY! I have had many Korean postal workers with injuries and oh my gosh, the stories I could tell. Such drama!

  4. Somehow I think the medicine is working, because you certainly have not lost your sense of humor. Listen to your mother, and keep popping the vitamin C, and drink orange juice if they have any.

    Please don't tell them about wearing a ring of garlic to keep away vampires. They will really think the Americans are crazy.

    Feel better, and keep RUNNING!!

    Love You