Circumcision in South Korea: Its Appearance Since the 1930s

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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 few non-Islamic and non-Jewish cultures. In North America—specifically in the U.S, rate of male circumcision reached 80-90% during the 1970s through 1990s. According to CDC— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—, the national rate of neonatal circumcision in the U.S. dramatically declined in the 2000s; the latest national survey conducted by the NHDS—National Hospital Discharge Survey— shows an average male circumcision rate of less than 50% among U.S. men in 2000s, with a lowest of 31.4% in 2003. Non-religious male circumcision is rarely practiced in Asia; non-neonatal circumcision is observed only in South Korea and Philippine—more specifically, Philippine has a long history of circumcision tradition dated back to Spaniard’s arrival in the 16th century. Despites the fact that Koreans historically and religiously did not perform male circumcision before the 1945 or the 1950 Korean War, South Korea is the only county where high rate of male circumcision is nationally and culturally performed until todays. The comparison of three different...

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... If religious and medical or compulsory factors have little influence on circumcision in Korea—since 60% responded that reason for circumcision was because of societal custom and self-consciousness, 80% decision making was made by children, and the most of Koreans lacked information about circumcision— societal and cultural reason appears to be the most influential factor for nationally widespread circumcision in South Korea. Furthermore, study of Korean parents—regardless of their sex and ages— have uniformed or common perception about circumcision. Scrutinized observation of South Korea’s circumcision prevalence infers a conclusion that Koreans— either children or parents—are highly influenced by societal psychology when making a decision on circumcision. Thus, societal pressure is the main cause for circumcision rather than any specific religious and medical reason.
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