Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cut Peppers (Owww.....)

Dear Korean,

This question might sound weird or even offensive but trust me -- I am asking this because I just wanna know. No offense intended. Or maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know the answer to this question yet. Anyway, I'll get straight. Are Korean males circumcised? If yes, what's the percentage?

Rezzell E.

Dear Offensive Weirdo,

You inadvertently stumbled upon a highly interesting topic -- not only because it involves, ahem, peppers (Korean euphemism for male you-know-what,) but also because it involves history.

Spicy and delicious

Korea is an anomaly in the world when it comes to circumcision. First, take a look at this map:

Entire Asia is more or less grey, except for Korea (and the Philippines), which is darker. The World Health Organization estimates that 60 percent of all Korean males are circumcised -- the highest among non-Muslim and non-Jewish countries. This trend is directly contrary to Korea's Confucian's heritage, which teaches people to keep whole the body received from the parents. Why did this trend happen?

Here is an absolutely fascinating survey of circumcised men in Korea conducted in 2000. The most interesting part is this -- nearly no one born prior to 1945 was circumcised. Circumcision in Korea began in 1945, and the number rose dramatically through the 1960s. So here is a pop quiz:  what was the most influential force in Korea from 1945 through the 1960s?

Answer: the Yanks! As U.S. military occupied Korea after the end of World War II and through Korean War, it had an unofficial policy of circumcising its soldiers because it was believed to prevent venereal disease and generally improve hygiene. Especially during Korean War, Korean soldiers fought side-by-side with Americans. And whatever was considered good by Americans, Koreans enthusiastically followed. The circumcision fad died out in the U.S., but it lived on in Korea for the next two decades. As a result, the survey shows that nearly 90 percent of Korean men who were born in the 1980s are circumcised. In fact, circumcision nearly became a rite of passage for all men -- particularly so because nearly all Korean men must be drafted, which means they will be sharing showers with about dozen other men for more than two years.

However, as the medical benefits of circumcision is becoming increasingly dubious, more doctors in Korea are recommending that circumcision is not necessary in the last decade. But if you encounter a strapping eligible Korean man in his 20s-30s, it is highly likely that he is carrying a cut pepper. (shudder)

To conclude, here is a contest -- come up with the best "pepper" joke using the information from this post! The Korean dropped enough innuendos here to give fertile ground for an enormously entertaining load. (Hey, there was one just now.) Go nuts!

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I feel kind of perverted for reading the question and being interested. Also, congrats being on the CNN website.

  2. It's worth mentioning that Koreans are not circumcised at birth, but usually (as far as I know) at the end of elementary school or the beginning of middle school. Ouch.

    I taught a set of twins and the girl came in one day and, when asked where her brother was, said he had an operation. I showed concern and asked about it, but from her reticent response realized what the 'operation' was.

    A friend who taught in Korea also had a student come in not long after having had it done, and noticed him walking very slowly and painfully home...

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  5. Before I joined the mandatory military service in Korea, it was falsely alleged that Korean army forced the recruits to undergo circumcise without anesthesia.

    I was so feared about that, so I went to a hospital, it was the first time I went to a urology. A week after the operation I went to that hospital to pull out the stiches. It was summer time then, the doctor was absent for his vacation, and a nurse gave me his recommendation to another hospital.

    The recommended doctor was a woman. I was very shy at that time, I did pull out the stiches for myself. I have some scars at my thing.

    There are many hilarious stories about self-circumcise.

  6. During army service I did because it's almost free. One of soliders, he steached it not professional way because it's more good for partner.

  7. I had a sixth grader in my class who told me he was going to "get cut down there" the next day and then he never came back to class for the rest of the summer.

  8. Medically proven; men who have had this done are much cleaner and healthier.

  9. ouch! waiting till boys are 4 or 5 years is considered irresponsible parenting here...

  10. I think the estimates are too low. I've yet to see an uncircumcised adult Korean male in one of those public bath houses in Korea or US.

  11. Just FYI, the medical benefits of MC are not as dubious as you claim they are. For example, the World Health Organization has recommended MC as a way to prevent the spread of HIV following three trials in sub-Saharan Africa that show MC is protective against infection (not 100%, but definitely better than not being circumcised).

  12. Ohm's a pepper, Han's a pepper, Ye's a pepper, Si's a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a pepper, Ku?

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  14. You know, I actually thought that fewer Koreans were circumcised than in the U.S.

    Then again, I've seen more Korean mens' weenies than I have Americans....

    Thanks to the public baths, ya pervs!

  15. Of course, what few people ever mention is that US circumcision is often different to circumcision performed either in Korea or Europe. The majority of American males who are circumcised have also had their frenulum removed. Though a small procedure, it is nonetheless additional to circumcision. No consent is sought before removing it, no debate is waged about the pros and cons, and its removal is not recorded. In the USA, frenulectomy is simply part of a circumcision.

    Considering that a recent study in Texas revealed that around 30% of teenage boys do not know they have been circumcised, we can assume only a very small number of men or boys will be aware they have also had a frenulectomy.

    The frenulum is the most erogenous part of the penis and removing it, in most cases, is totally unnecessary. When debates arise about whether or not circumcision reduces pleasure, no differentiation is ever made in terms of the frenulum and I would very much imagine that sensitivity differs greatly between circumcised men with a frenulum and those without.

    Part of the reason it is removed is because American surgeons have become used to a form of operation which removes as much foreskin as possible, often with quite disastrous consequences. For some sociologists circumcision is seen as a 'badge' of being American. Indeed,during the Vietnam war, military personnel were often compelled to undergo the operation.

    And neither is it difficult to spot American style circumcisions from Korean or European ones as the American penis is generally much more denuded of skin and more likely to have wide scar tissue. Once again, the visible scar tissue is not perceived by the owner to actually be a scar and some even perceive it as a birthmark or normal pigmentation.

    Removing the frenulum with the least scar tissue is probably the most problematic part of American circumcision and botched frenulectomies are probably much more common than badly performed circumcisions but because they are usually not visible the medical profession escapes criticism.

    While I understand the arguments for and against this operation, the choice should not lie with parents but with the boy when he reaches a certain age. At least in Korea, boys have more chance of having a say about whether or not it should be performed, and how, and they do not usually undergo a frenulectomy.

    More focus needs to be placed on frenulectomy as a clandestine procedure. It is shocking that American medical services perform a procedure completely additional to circumcision and do so without any consent, or parental awareness fostering and consolidating as they do so, public ignorance. It is even more shocking that so few people are aware of what is actually being removed.

  16. Interesting bit of info in the comments, in the Philippines circumcision is usually done around the same time too, roughly after the end of elementary school. By the way, the Korean, Malaysia and Indonesia count as part of Asia (though I'm wondering if the Chinese in Singapore have adopted this practice).

  17. I have a comment. When I was in Singapore at the health club in the locker room shower/sauna, I noticed most guys seemed to be circumcised.


  18. I was circumcied in in Korea as an adult b/c of peer pressure. I like the result and have no problem with it.

  19. Sorry if im a bit late.But i was wondering why this became a big issue now. im only aware of this issue when a korean friend suddenly ask me about this 2 days ago.

    Im not sure why korean or other non muslims do it but for Muslim its a mandatory for all boys. and most of them due it when they are a child as it will be less painful compared as when they are older. Now in Singapore not only muslim but some of non muslim guys do it. yes its for medical reason.

    No religion will ask their devotee doing something that will hurt them. with the internet and high technology i believes information can be easily found in about Circumcision in Islam.

    Im not sure why some people said its take long time to heal. My nephew who is just 4yrs old can start running and jumping around 5 days after the Circumcision

  20. American culture doing shit with the other countries. Foreskin is part of the penis, it has functions especially about the coitus. That not the end od the world, but with good hygiene there's no problem to have a foreskin. Men in this hygienist and pragmatic world live in the the dictatorship of sexual aesthetics. Sad.

  21. Interestingly S. Korean Professors Kim and Pang, who originally identified this strange Asian anomaly, have recently done another survey that indicates many 14-16 y/o boys are currently choosing to remain uncut. The circumcision rate appears to be dropping steeply, and they believe it is probably due to greater internet access better informing doctors, parents and boys.

    Are Koreans really SO different from the Japanese, who were also occupied by the USA for a long time, yet never adopted the practice. Are the Koreans still such American "wannabees" that they will copy even culturally inappropriate US customs? Are they not aware that virtually NO Europeans, South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, and many fewer Canadians now cut their boys unless medically indicated?

  22. Just to correct a point made above, like elsewhere in the world, the Chinese in Singapore are generally NOT circumcised, except for medical or "religious" reasons. (Some Chinese Christian Churches have the weird idea that it is mandatory for Christians, despite the clear teachings of St. Paul that it is NOT!)
    Malays and Muslim Indians in Singapore are cut, but Eurasians, Hindu Indians, and Tamils are not.

  23. "The circumcision fad died out in the USA..."
    In the 1960s and 70s, routine infant circumcision rates exceeded 95% in many American demographics. I am an aging baby boomer, and saw only 5-6 intact boys while growing up.
    About 55% of American baby boys are now cut before exiting the maternity ward. HHS counts these circs. But a growing number of American baby boys are cut as outpatients in the offices of a pediatrician. Nobody counts these circumcisions. Hence the true circ rate this century is unknown. It probably still exceeds 60%.
    Routine infant circumcision is the most controversial procedure in all of American pediatrics, and the biggest open question in the social psychology of American sexuality. Most American parents have their sons circumcised, fearing that an intact male in the USA is doomed to an Epic Fail social life. The internet is a ray of hope; it has never been easier for a male circumcised in infancy to learn about what he has been deprived of. American young women are also learning about the intact penis, and they are not all grossed out.


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