Circumcision In South Korea: Its Appearance Since The 1930s

2044 words - 9 pages

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the human penis. Male circumcision is one of the earliest surgical procedures that have been performed for approximately four thousand years. About eighty percent of the world’s male population is uncircumcised, and only the rest twenty percent is circumcised. Among the rest twenty percent of the male population, circumcision is performed mainly for religious reasons among Jewish and Islamic cultures. Therefore, male circumcision is widely and nationally practiced only in the Muslim world—parts of Asia and Africa— and Israel most of the time. High rate of circumcision performed for non-religious reasons only prevail in ...view middle of the document...

Circumcision was not historically and culturally rooted in Korea, however, the geopolitical events— such as the 1950 Korean War and continues U.S. involvement/presence in Korean Peninsula— consequently introduced American cultures to Korean. The introduction of new medical/surgical procedure namely male circumcision— which was and people initially perceived as beneficial at the beginning of introduction— and information asymmetry of the newly introduced circumcision practice lead to a creation of unique tradition/culture— a rite of passage— in nowadays Korea, which appear by an unusual high rate of male circumcision among Korean male compares to other neighboring Asian countries such as Japan and China.
Pre-1950 Korean War: 1930s
The beginning of circumcision practice was more of religious reasons rather than medical reasons. Therefore, many Koreans often have two misunderstandings/misconceptions about male circumcision. First, some Koreans believe practice of male circumcision in South Korea as the historical tradition, but Koreans historically did not circumcise. First of all, cultural concept of circumcision never existed in East Asia or Northeast Asia; moreover, medical procedure of circumcision was unknown to East Asian countries including Korea. The earliest historical evidence of male circumcision practice in Korea dated back to 1930s’ news reports during the Korean Empire/the Annexation of Korea by Japan era. The two news reports show that male circumcision was first performed and introduced by Japanese doctors in the 1930s; additionally, unlike nowadays where Korean men perceive circumcision as a rite of passage, the two earliest case of male circumcision was mainly performed for medical reasons—to treat the phimosis where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted over the glans penis. The news reports from the 1930s show absolutely no connection to nowadays national practice of circumcision in South Korea. Second, some Koreans perceive circumcision as the vice brought by Japanese during the Japanese colonial period. However, male circumcision— like other surgical procedures— never become common surgical procedure among Koreans during the Japanese colonial time because of Koreans’ resistance to the idea of Western/modern medicine and surgical procedures due to Korea’s historically deeply rooted Confucian culture where not preserving the body or cutting skin and even hair was viewed as a rejection of filial piety “"We received our body, hair, and skin from our parents and dare not harm them. This is the beginning of filial piety”. Christianity has never been associated with circumcision, and there was virtually no Muslim or Jewish population in Korea. Thus, the two misunderstandings/misconceptions cannot account for the unusual present situation in South Korea.
1950 Korean War to pre-1970s
As mention previously, male circumcision was almost unknown to Korean men before the arrival of the American culture—since the survey shows...

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