[VIEWPOINT]Stay the knife and spare the boyIf your child tended to pick his nose, how would you correct his bad habit? If the child were very lazy, how would you change his behavior? To make matter worse, what if he drools? No problem; the answer is simple. Have him circumcised! If a wife were hysterical, circumcising her husband would calm the woman. A man who masturbates too often or has too much sexual desire could get rid of his excess sexual energy by circumcision. The magical treatment also works for epilepsy as well.
As absurd and bogus as it may sound, American researchers published such theories in international academic journals in the 1960s and 70s. Among the adult male global population, less than 20 percent are circumcised, and most of them are Muslim. Aside from the Muslim population, less than 1 percent of the males in Europe and Japan are circumcised for medical reasons. But the exceptions are the United States, South Korea and the Philippines. The tradition of circumcision in Korea began when the country was under U.S. military administration after the Japanese colonial period. While the United States attempted to introduce the practice in Germany and Japan, the two defeated nations of World War II did not follow suit.
When it comes to circumcision, the United States is a backward country. American doctors who champion the practice of circumcision have been changing their rhetoric over and over in the last 150 years, but their conclusion remains the same. When epilepsy emerged as a social issue at the turn of the century, doctors advocated that circumcision would cure the illness. In the mid-20th century, they insisted that the operation would lower the risk of uterine cancer. Most recently, some doctors published papers insisting that circumcision would prevent AIDS.
The research has apparent logical contradictions and flaws. If the presence of a foreskin were linked to uterine cancer, how could they explain the fact that Japanese women boast the longest average lifespan in the world without the tradition of circumcision? If circumcision prevents the transmission of the HIV virus, why is AIDS such a big health threat in the United States, where the practice is ubiquitous? If the operation helps men maintain their genital area in a hygienic condition, what about women? Can you get rid of foul-smelling breath by severing the lips? In fact, female circumcision, a genital mutilation operation practiced mainly in Africa to keep girls “clean,” has been designated as a human rights violation. Jews say that their financial and political power in the United States saved the tradition of male circumcision from being branded an infringement of human rights.
Why do American doctors encourage the practice and ultimately want to spread it to the world? Dr. Ronald Goldman, a renowned psychologist and educator, claimed that a circumcised boy might tease an uncircumcised friend for being intact and force him to go through the procedure because he wanted to be compensated for his trauma by harassing others. And according to a paper published in the British Journal of Urology, only 50 percent of psychiatrists and physicians in Korea are circumcised while over 90 percent of surgeons are.
We no longer need to be the only country that is dragged into the psychological trauma of American boys. In the United States and Israel, the proportion of circumcised men is decreasing. The unnecessary practice will eventually disappear in Korea as well. Historical figures, including the legendary doctor Heo Jun and Admiral Lee Sun-sin were not circumcised. Neither former president Park Chung Hee nor former national soccer head coach Guus Hiddink were circumcised. Why give young boys a trauma by having them go through such an avoidable and painful operation?
Knowing the historical and medical background of circumcision would save children from this regrettable tradition.
* The writer is a professor of physics at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Dai-sik