Friday, September 20, 2013

time for a change

My air conditioner has been blowing stinky air for the past week. I'm pretty sure that this is what has contributed to my current sickness. Koreans speak of naeng-bang-byeong, or "cold-room sickness," resulting from overexposure to air conditioners. I think part of the Korean leeriness about A/Cs is rooted in a native caution: A/Cs didn't become popular in Korea until the mid-90s, and once they caught on, they overloaded the peninsula's power grid, causing several embarrassing outages until KEPCO (Korea Electric Power Company) was able to firm up its infrastructure. Even these days, though, Koreans tend to be stingy in their A/C use. I've been in numerous taxis, for instance, in which the car's interior heat was stifling because the driver had the blower down at its lowest possible setting. The same goes for bank offices and subways: it's rare to find such places sufficiently cooled down. Still, Koreans aren't wrong to be cautious: A/Cs can generate a microbe-rich halitus that is dangerous to breathe. In a small, cramped studio like the one I inhabit, that's a recipe for respiratory trouble.

But let's get back to my stinky A/C. I shut the appliance off last night and turned on (gasp!) my electric fan. Didn't die. Before I went to bed, I looked up some information on Whisen brand A/C repair, and I'll be applying my new knowledge to my air conditioner today. Accessing the filter seems easy enough; there's a panel that pops out and swings up, and the filter comes out in two or more parts. I'll scrub down what I can with a combination of bleach and water, and we'll see whether that improves things. The filter is the main focus, of course; it needs a thorough cleaning.

Just a little extra something to do during vacation.



John from Daejeon said...

I wouldn't call it stingy. The South Korean government has mandated using higher temperatures when using air conditioners this summer (I bet none of them in the government are though...well...all of them except the President) in an effort to avert electric blackouts. It seems South Korea is a victim of its own success (and corruption) as more and more people now have air conditioning at home to go with all their electronic gadgets (smart phones, computers, tablets, and other household electronics) coupled with several nuclear power plants hit with scandal and closures over safety concerns after the disaster at Fukushima, Japan.

Kevin Kim said...

Dude, when I'm sweatin' inside that taxi, I'm callin' the driver stingy.

Charles said...

The taxi drivers are indeed stingy, as the government mandate doesn't cover private automobiles.

I personally hate A/C and will not turn it on unless I have to. I particularly hate having A/C (or even a fan, actually) blowing directly on me. Whenever the wife and I go out to eat, we try to find the one table in the place that isn't directly in the path of the A/C or a fan.

And I definitely get 냉방병. I'm very sensitive to that.

Kevin Kim said...


Yeah, you skinny folk have too high of a surface area-to-volume ratio: core heat escapes from you too quickly, which makes A/C seem almost redundant, I'm sure. We manatees, by contrast, can't radiate heat fast enough without outside help.

John from Daejeon said...

Charles, I not a 100% sure, but didn't the South Korean government pass a law making taxis "public" transportation? I don't know as I'm a bicycle rider trying to do my very small part for our planet.

It could have also been that Kevin's driver fancied himself a patriot in doing his small part for the country/world, but that experience should help Kevin inquire about the interior temperatures of taxi cabins before he enters them in the future.

Anyway, it looks like the harbinger of winter arrives on the peninsula this Tuesday as temperatures start their brutally quick downward descent to Hoth-like levels.

Kevin, I submitted this comment twice as it looks like it may have been lost upon my first submission into the ether that makes up the Web.

Charles said...

You need one of those pressurized suits that has the warm water flowing through it, except instead of warm water you use ice water. It would be like walking around in your own private refrigerator.

Kevin Kim said...


As you know, comments don't appear immediately because they're all subject to blog-owner approval.

"It could have also been that Kevin's driver fancied himself a patriot in doing his small part for the country/world, but that experience should help Kevin inquire about the interior temperatures of taxi cabins before he enters them in the future."

Not sure what you're getting at here. I shouldn't take taxis because I know how warm they are? That's kinda dumb, yeah? And how does one go about inquiring after the interior temperatures of taxis?


That's the suit for me.

Charles said...


As for the taxis being "public" transportation, I honestly don't know--I take taxis so infrequently that I most likely tuned out any news on the subject I might have heard. I suppose it's possible, but it doesn't seem too likely, mainly because of the problem of enforcement. After all, you can't very well pull over taxis at random to see if they have their air conditioning set too low. And even if you did, how exactly would you measure this? Police would have to carry around thermometers specifically for measuring the air temperature inside a taxi. It seems a bit of a stretch.

Which is not to say that the government didn't pass a law making taxis public transportation. They might have. I just doubt very much that this would be a viable reason for a taxi driver not to turn on his air conditioning. I could see the patriotic angle possibly coming into play, but honestly I think the most likely reason is that it is commonly believed that using the A/C reduces fuel efficiency. (Or the taxi drivers could be like me and dislike A/C.)

John from Daejeon said...

Kevin, before my previous comment, I thought my computer had a slight malfunction as I lost my "always on" connection to and Those are my constant links to my job back in the states and those needing to contact me as I don't have a physical phone here. It blinked out right as I hit the publish button, so I wasn't sure it went through. It happened again afterwards, but Google did send me a message stating that they are doing some upgrades and to expect the occasional dropped call/disconnection from Gmail (yesterday).

"And how does one go about inquiring after the interior temperatures of taxis?", you ask the driver about his a/c usage before committing to the ride.

Here's a link to some of the taxi/bus issues regarding what qualifies as public transportation last year that even lead to a very short-lived bus strike (two hours-ish) and some chaos. Anyway, I am just giving you a hard time about the a/c in cabs as I ride my bicycle every single day ov the year in both the wonderfully mild Korean summers and its brutally cold winters. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts sure beats wearing a parka, countless layers of clothing (including thermal underwear), two pairs of gloves, two wool caps, and fur-lined boots on a bicycle from December-mid March.

Good luck with those beginners, and remember that not every kid in South Korea has attended an English hagwon. I'm in a very poor part of town, and I'd have to say at least half the kids in my neighborhood have never attended any of them while the rich neighborhood across the river has close to 100% participation in several disciplines.