Elwood 5566

Beating Boknal (4) 2011

Posted in Food and Drink, Health care, seasons by 노강호 on July 10, 2011

Boknal (복날) is coming!

The hottest period of Korean weather will begin in mid-July when the chang-ma (장마 – monsoon season) has begun to move north towards  Manchuria. The hottest period, lasting 2o days, known as boknal (복날), begins on ch’obok (초복) which this year is July 14th. 10 days later is chung-bok ( 중복 – July 24th) followed another 10 days later by mal-bok (말복 – August 3rd). The three days, ch’o, chung and mal, (초, 중, 말) are known as sambok (삼복), ‘sam’ being the Sino-Korean for ‘three.’

Two add confusion, there is Hanyorum (or hanyeoreum, 한여름) which is basically ‘midsummer’ and this begins once the chang-ma (monsoon) has fully moved north. Hanyorum, usually in August, is typified by hot days and balmy evenings. Though the monsoon has gone, it is still humid but perhaps I notice it more being British.

Boknal is supposed to be uncomfortable but personally, I find the humid monsoon season just as horrid. I suppose with boknal you know the end of summer is in sight.

Ways to beat boknal – or at least make it bearable:

sleep with a ‘wooden wife’ – she’ll only cost you about 10.000 Won and apart from being lazy she’s totally mute!

Korean teas, chilled are wonderfully refreshing if not a little ‘just’ in terms of taste.

iced coffee

wear silver summer trousers – I’ve heard the material these suits and trousers are made  sometimes called ‘kal-ch’i (갈치) after the silver cutlass fish seen in markets. I’ve had two pairs of these made and they lower body heat considerably.

brilliant at lowering body temperature

handkerchiefs and towels – in cheapo ‘dollar shops’ you can buy handkerchiefs for about 1000 Won. I usually find Koreans regard sweat almost as nasty as urine – which is basically what it is!

ice rooms and cold pools –  a brilliant way to cool down.

cold showers – pretty obvious, really.

hand fans – plenty to choose from

Then there are a range of foods for combating heat  known as bo-yang-shik (보양식). Fight heat with heat (이열치열); Ginseng chicken, and stews including dog stew (보신탕), are the foods typically eaten on three days marking boknal and chicken ginseng is a big favourite right through summer.

Alternatively, fight heat with cold and cool down with patpingsu (받빙수),  naeng myeon (cold noodles) and plenty of water melon.

Green tea patpingsu

Chill out in one of the numerous cheong-cha (arbors – 정자), they are great at capturing what little breeze is in the air.

Best of all, get naked and lie in the blast of the air-con!

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Beating Boknal (복날) 1. My Wooden Wife (죽부인)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on June 30, 2011

Who needs this? (Joo-Hee Kim, Miss Korea 2006)

When you can have this!

(Originally published August 5th 2010) I’ve just got myself a ‘wife.’ Rather than travel to the Philippines or Thailand, and spend a fortune on one who might be mouthy, problematic, dump me the moment she has a British passport  or demand too much, this one was bought at my local E-Mart at the amazingly cheap price of 9500 Won (£5). I didn’t have to pay a pimp for acting as middle-man and she even came in a bag.

She is incredibly skinny and all ribs but being mute and pretty lifeless, I neither have to suffer nagging and can easily boot her out of my bed should she fail to please. And though I know it’s a bit misogynistic, the bits I don’t like are missing. The down side? She is fucking lazy. I left her on the bed this morning and she is still laying there eight hours later.

Cool sleeping

Unlike real wives who are apt to raise your temperature in more ways than one, my new Wooden Wife, lowers my temperature and reduces my stress levels. In Korea, she is known as a chuk-bu-in (죽부인) and  is used as the traditional method of keeping cool on hot  and humid evenings, especially during the hottest time of year (boknal –  복날)).

My wife about to undress and go to bed

Made of bamboo, the wooden-wife is used to drape your leg or limbs over, to sort of cuddle, and in doing so body heat trapped between limbs and torso is reduced. Using the wooden-wife  allows air to circulate around the body. Last night, I spent my first evening with her  in my bed and I must say, it was cooler than sleeping alone and definitely cooler than sleeping with a real human – if not somewhat more boring.

making a wooden wife (죽부인) Often called a 'wooden lady.'

The bamboo is very smooth and there are no rough edges. I also noticed that the bamboo is much cooler to touch as it doesn’t retain heat so with my air conditioner blowing down onto it, it even felt a little chilled.

Wooden-wives come in children and adult sizes and are also made in different colours. Though usually made of bamboo, other materials can be used. You can also buy attractive covers for bamboo chuk-bu-in.

Making wooden-wives

Wife on bed - waiting patiently

You get the gist...

UPDATE JULY 30 2011

She is absolutely fantastic in hot weather and I couldn’t do without her. I’ve been sleeping on and off with her for the last year though when the weather cooled last year, I kicked her down the side of the bed, between bed and wall, and that’s where she lay most of the winter. I’ve recently stuck one of those hooks on the wall and that’s where I put her when she’s not needed. Hanging about where she is, she’s within easy reach but during the summer she’s constantly on my bed. I cannot stress how fantastic wooden-wives are and mine has become a crucial item throughout hot summers.

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Typhoon Meari Echoes in Daegu

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on June 28, 2011

Daegu got the back-end of Typhoon Meari, typical in the monsoon season (Chang-ma 장마), which caused havoc and took nine lives in Jeju and Pusan. Saturday morning saw torrential rain and gusts of wind which didn’t abate until Sunday evening. The photos and video, taken from the 14th floor of my friend’s apartment, provide a great view across the Song-so area of Daegu, towards the distant mountains. As for the typhoon, luckily,  by the time it was inland, it was really only a big storm. All photos link to Wikimapia.

[

looking across Song-so with Hwa-won in the distance and Bi-sul-mountain (비슬산) in the background

gathering storm

in the direction of Song-so Rose Park

looking towards the edge of the university campus

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The Chang Ma Arrives in Daegu

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on June 22, 2011

watching the chang-ma under the cheong-cha

I always find it strange how Koreans know almost every adjective to describe the weather apart from what I consider one of the most important and certainly one of the most impressionable. And as I write, I can already recall as song I taught years ago entitled: ‘How’s the Weather? It’s Sunny…’ etc, etc. There are probably numerous versions of this but the one my inner ear is currently playing has a particularly memorable tune. Apart from not rhyming very well, ‘humid’ would have fitted but when it comes to learning the weather in Korea, this manifestation is usually ignored. And come to think of it, the weather that produces this condition is also absent from the average Korean lexicon.

Chang Ma in Daegu

I can tolerate the heat but once the Chang Ma (장마 – monsoon) arrives, as it has this afternoon in Daegu, and Korean weather becomes horribly humid and particularly uncomfortable. Arriving in Korea in August, ‘humidity’ (습기) was one of the first words I learnt and being British and noted for their obsession with the weather, it is one of my most frequently used words through the sticky, muggy months.

cherry blossom festival - Korean blossom is more predicable than its British counterpart

When it comes to the change of seasons in the UK, they have a mind of their own and winter, for example, might arrive in November one year and January the next. British seasons tend to be technical and the season it is supposed to be is not necessarily representative of the weather you are experiencing. Several years ago, I attended a Korean spring festival in a school I had previously taught in and it has been scheduled for the weekend when the cherry blossom was supposed to be at it’s most spectacular, on this occasion, April 13th. I arrived to find the blossom so prolific, when the breeze blew it fell from the trees like snow. That same year I had been in Britain in January and a cherry blossom and magnolia spasmed into bloom in the street in which I live. Days later, a frost viciously wreaked decimation.

for a Brit, warm rain is quite strange

Back to the Chang Ma; several people told me it would arrive on Wednesday, and that is exactly what happened and as I write, the rain is beating down outside. Though the Chang Ma has been hanging in the air for around a week, it now seems to be fully here and so,  from which ever date you take as its arrival in Daegu, they fit within an 8 day window of  2010 (June 17th) and 2009’s (June 15th)  Chang Ma. That’s a fairly consistent pattern!

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FURTHER REFERENCES

The Rainy Season Arrives (June 2010) Bathhouse Ballads

Where Nature Fills the Air

Posted in Animals, bathhouse Ballads, Nature, seasons by 노강호 on June 17, 2011

The Korean Jay - 산까치

Podcast 84

Maybe it’s the nature of the information and blogs I read but there seems to be some agreement that Korean young people have less interest or awareness of the nature around them than their British peers. I have met so many Koreans who do not know the name for the beautiful Jay (산까치) that flashes through the trees on the slopes of mountains, do not know that there are several species of woodpecker (딱다구리) or do not know which tree produces an acorn. Subsequently, it has taken me years to grope my way to knowing the correct names for a bumble bee, wasp and a hornet. Because many Koreans are not reliable at classifying and differentiating wildlife, I’m often forced to use photographs on the internet but I have learnt to be cautious as even here anomalies can appear. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a British kid who hates butterflies – but I know several Korean teenagers who positively detest them.

The smallest of Korean woodpeckers - the pygmy woodpecker (쉬딱다구리)

(산호랑 나비) The swallow-tail, 'mountain tiger,' terrifies some boys I know

Living in the city, as I do, it doesn’t take long to forget the beauty of the countryside and worse, to begin to generalise that Koreans, all Koreans, are ignorant of nature. The ignorance, I now realise, is solely mine and having hung around the city too long, where most of my students and friends have been born and bred, I have forgotten that a significant part of the population live in the country. I rarely meet any enthusiasm for wildlife among those Koreans I know and even though they love hiking, the mountains are not really conducive to walking ‘off trail,’ or random exploration. The mountain trails are always busy and as the borders between the human world and the ‘wild,’  provide only a window into the diversity of  Korean nature.  However, ask Koreans about the camel cricket (곱등이), thread worms (연가시) or cockroach (바퀴벌레) and you elicit animated, revolted responses.

for many Koreans, the camel cricket (곱등이) is probably more revolting than the cockroach partly because of the thread worm it is often believed to be infested with (연가시)

I recently saw a bumble bee (호박벌레) while with a Korean friend and it terrified him. The sight of it actually caused him to step backwards. It was on the floor and suffering the common bumble bee problem, of not being able to take off. It was at the start of spring and in cooler weather they need to ‘warm-up,’ much like cars or humans in the cold. I put my hand down and let it climb on my finger and raising my arm skywards, it was able to launch itself, first plummeting before finally gaining altitude and eventually soaring away on the breeze. My friend was shocked I had dared let it on my hand, not because it could have stung me, which bumble bees rarely do, but because it was ‘dirty,’  but he’s city born and city bred. To date, this is the only bumble bee I’ve seen in Korea. In the UK, one often hears rumours that some of London’s inner city kids have no idea where potatoes come from and have never actually seen a cow. However, I wouldn’t be fool enough to make generalizations from such myopic observations as I seem to have done in Korea where I have prejudged  most Koreans to be disinterested in nature and wildlife.

Hwa-won clan village

The main building of the complex

Last week, I spent the morning no more than a  twenty-minute car drive from bustling Song-so, in the area of Hwa-won. I’m with a friend whose teenage cousin lives in the area and who is able to tell me the names of wild life not just in Korean, but English. Although the city is blocked from view by one mountain, and the fact it lies only a few kilometers away, the distance might as well be a few hundred kilometers and our teenage guide is definitely more rural than high-rise townie. When I spot a preying mantis in the grass, only a few inches long, he deftly picks it up between finger and thumb, in a manner which seemed practiced and was as excited with it as I was. Okay, I know this is one Korean and that my perception of the relationship between Koreans and nature is being radically transformed by him, but there is farmland as far as I can see; is  it really possible to live in such an environment without imbuing some knowledge of and passion for, the surrounding beauty?

one of the quaint side streets

The number of times that Korea evokes in me a heightened sense of reality, where I am reminded of the uniqueness of my experience and how amazing it is to be in a culture thousands of miles away from my own, has diminished.  Not only is Korea crawling with other waegs, myself included, but it has gradually become home from home. The internet, Skype, messenger, and a foreign EPIK teacher in every school has tamed the  ‘Hermit Kingdom’ and brought it much closer to West than it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. And a browse across the Klogosphere tends to dampen the numinous when it is stirred because a zillion others, just like myself, are having a similar experience. But I remember the times I was inspired by my first glimpse of the Milky Way from Korea, my first rice paddy and experienced the break of dawn from the top of a small mountain. Such moments were uplifting, somewhat mystical and quite moving and all the more so in the absence of the internet and an army of fellow foreigners, both of which dull the uniqueness of your experience.

locals chilling under a chong-cha

Hwa-won clan village, main building and former yang-ban residence

In the base of the Hwa-won valley, the rice paddies are flooded and newly planted with crops. In the distance I heard not just the first cuckoo in late spring, but my very first Korean cuckoo per-se; and all around the air frantically buzzed with busy insects. Of course, the season of the memi has yet to come as the weather is still cool. What was most incredible however, was the air; it was alive with the scent of grass, wild flowers and the humidity of the paddy. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an alive and pregnant smell and it was so heady and rich I snorted it loudly, laughing to myself in what was almost giddy glee. I suspect, if I were to spend more time in this environment, I would quickly discover locals with a love for and knowledge of the nature around them. There was far more to discover here in the broad valley than up the mountain manacled by a trial frequented by an army of hikers.

And I am gradually coming to realise that perhaps Koreans aren’t as ignorant of nature as I had at first thought and now suspect I have been drawing conclusions about them based on the assumption that a bumble bee or hornet are universally significant. If I asked British people about camel crickets and memi, I could arrive at exactly the same conclusion…

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Waiting for Summer’s Herald – the Memi

Posted in Animals, Nature, seasons by 노강호 on May 22, 2011

summer's herald

I much prefer the name ‘memi’ for that bizarre insect known in the west as a cicada. I  would imagine that in places with a hot summer and hence a familiarity with this strange animal, places like the USA, there is rarely any confusion about the pronunciation, ‘cicada;’ but in the UK, where summers are cooler and the insect pretty rare, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, mispronunciation is common.

If you’re a visitor to Korea from a country where the song of the memi is simply regular background noise, you probably won’t even notice it but if like me, you are from cooler climes, that summer scream is one dominant leitmotiv in which intense heat, humidity and sticky bollocks converge.

a newly hatched memi makes its journey from the ground to high branches

The first memi to sing are more likely to be heard in Daegu as this is the hottest region of the peninsula and last year I heard the first on July 7th when the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius; the last I heard on September 25th when the temperature was 29 degrees.  The memi starts ‘singing’ from 84 degrees Fahrenheit, 29 degrees Celsius. There are still a few weeks of relative coolness to enjoy before the world is turned into one sweaty, sticky, noisy hell during which life is spent hugging shadows on the sidewalk, taking constant cold showers and recuperating in the heavenly chill of the air-con. As much as I love spring, it is marred by the anticipation of  what lies in its wake and part of my pleasure in hearing the season’s first memi is knowing that I will also hear its last.

SOME INTERNAL LINKS

Memi at various intensities

Fahrenheit  84 (29 degrees Celsius)

Season of the Memi

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At Least it’s not a Cockroach – Rice Weevils (쌀벌레)

Posted in Food and Drink, Health care, seasons by 노강호 on May 11, 2011

apparently, you can eat them

Over the long humid summer, one problem with rice is infestation by rice weevils. Their presence is noticed by small black additions to otherwise white rice. There are several means of keeping them out of your rice container, one of them being to place dried chillies and a head of garlic in the same container. Others are the use of airtight containers or placing your new bag of rice in the freezer for 24 hours. This method isn’t the best if you buy rice by the sack.

Home Z Rice Worm Repellent (쌀벌레). Naturally made

The best deterrent is a packet of ‘Rice Weevil’ (쌀벌레, by 방충선언), which costs about 4000 Won and is widely available. You simply snip open the packet and it sticks on the inside of your container. The smell is pungent and very similar to intense wasabi (horseradish) but it stays in the container and doesn’t flavour the rice. One packet gives 3 months protection.

deters nasty visitors

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A Feast of Spring

Posted in Photo diary, plants and trees by 노강호 on April 19, 2011

the impressive magnolia (목련)

spring in Daegu

against the sky

forsythia gone crazy (개나리)

cherry blossom

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The Filthy Thing Was Sat on my Doorstep

Posted in Animals by 노강호 on April 12, 2011

 

no check-out!

Maybe it’s an urban myth, but when I was in China I met a traveler who’d claimed he ‘d seen a cockroach supping dribble for the corner of his room mate’s mouth, who thankfully, was asleep at the time. The roaches I encountered in China dwarfed anything I’ve seen in Korea. And seriously, I actually knew a very strange guy from my army days who ate cockroaches. It wasn’t a party piece, he didn’t brag about it or do it to shock people. If ever a cockroach scuttled within reach his arm snatched it with as much speed and accuracy as a mantis and  instantly it was deposited in his mouth. What was uncanny was that the only part of his body that moved was his arm. He didn’t even need to turn his head and could pluck one within the field of his peripheral vision. You met some strange people in the army.

I spent 10 years in the British Army  in Germany and most barracks were infested with both the Oriental and the German cockroach. I even found cockroaches in my food but when I complained was simply told they were full of calories. Needless to say I hate this insect and do not wait for them to start visiting my one-room. I’ve probably seen no more than 12 in 3 years and last year saw only a couple as I’d posted at least 10 poisonous banquet boxes around the room. The thing I’ve learnt about cockroaches is that if you happen to see one snooping around the perimeter of your accommodation, or worse, inside as an unwanted guest, you can guarantee there’s been plenty other visits when you’ve been out or sleeping.

I came home this evening and there was one of the filthy pests scuttling about in the opening of my door, where you leave your shoes. With temperatures still cool, it was too slow to avoid being crushed to oblivion. So it’s off to Dream-Mart in the morning to  buy one of the numerous anti-cockroach devices. For more information on Korean insects and the filthy roach:

An Interlude of Insects (April 2010)

available in Korean stores (click-pic for information)

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FURTHER REFERENCES

What-is-the-best-method-of-cockroach-control

Combat Company Site

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Finding a Pathology to Fit the Procedure – Circumcision (포경)

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Education, Gender, Health care, podcasts, seasons by 노강호 on March 24, 2011

a sometimes used image on Korean urology websites

podcast 76

Mention ‘whaling’ (포경) to Korean men and most will cross their legs in pain while boys about to go to middle school (at about 13) , and perhaps some about to go to high school (16), will turn white with fear. ‘Whaling’ is a touchy subject and it is during the lengthy winter vacation that the cull reaches its peak. In Korean, ‘po-kyeong’ is a homonym attributed to the hunting of whales and of the widespread practice of circumcision, (포경 수슬), and in this case, as I will explain later, it is a misnomer. Finding information about or attitudes towards this subject are difficult and very little is available in English. That Korea has the world’s highest rate of secular circumcision is rarely acknowledged and the practice is generally associated with the USA.

it needs to be…you don’t have to…

However, attitudes are changing. I recently spoke to two men (one 27 the other 32), who explained that while they didn’t blame their parents for undergoing circumcision, they are nonetheless angry it had been performed. Both felt the procedure resulted in a reduction in sensation and given boys are well into puberty by the time they have the operation, their claims are perhaps more valid than those from American audiences where it is usually performed neo-natal and where men are not really qualified to make qualitative comparisons. One friend clearly remembers his circumcision and the fear invoked in anticipation even though it is done under local anaesthetic.  I have discovered Korean boys tend to be more squeamish about injections than girls and this is hardly surprising given that you are either anticipating multiple injections in your dick or in a cold sweat recalling the memory. Both men are adamant that it will be their sons who choose whether or not to be circumcised.

once you’re out of elementary school you need a circumcision

The circumcision debate is a great subject for exposing how dumb people really are. There is nothing intrinsically superior about a circumcised dick and the aesthetics attributed to penal status are largely derived from whatever is the most accepted social custom.  Circumcision looks ‘weird’ to many Europeans as much as a foreskin looks ‘weird’ to many Americans. Meanwhile, a Filipino boy might be proud of his new circumcision (pagtutuli), which isn’t really a circumcision at all, while both Americans and Europeans are likely to consider it reminiscent of an accident incurred with a meat grinder. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but the beholder is significantly influenced by their social and cultural milieu. In the USA where radical circumcision, including the unnecessary and extraneous removal of the frenulum, have several decades’ dominance, cultural values have transformed wonky stitches and chewed up scar tissue into aesthetically pleasing damage which in the least is seen as an enhancement and at the extreme deemed natural.  If a society can eradicate the botched and overzealous circumcisions many American males have been subject to, making them ‘disappear’ with far greater success than any cosmetic surgery or skin cream,  just imagine how it could transform attitudes to acne, obesity and aging.

beauty is culturally informed

Then there is the ridiculous argument that circumcision protects one from HIV and STI’s. Well, maybe there is some medical evidence to support this but I suspect it is spurious or simply invalid. When rates of  circumcision in the USA were almost at a peak, in the 1980’s,  HIV was able to infect a significantly large number of people. Surely the answer lies in safer sexual practices rather than in an amputation which leaves the recipient under the assumption that a circumcision is as good as a condom in terms of safer sex.

Circumcision has a long history of being a cure for something and when not the foreskin has been identified as a cause of immorality and perversion. The ‘benefits’ of circumcision, apart from the obvious, which ironically is currently one of the most contested, namely that it reduces sensitivity, include: reducing a tendency to masturbation (Athol Johnson, Lancet, London,  April 7, 1860),  cures polio and reduces masturbation, (Dr. Lewis Sayre, USA, 1870),  reduces masturbation (J.H. Kellogg,  USA, 1877. Not only did he advocate circumcision, but that it be performed without anesthetic, a trend that continued in the USA  until recently.),  reduces lethal diarrhea (AAP, USA, 1880’s advocating routine neo-natal circumcision), cited as cure for bed-wetting, syphilis and tuberculosis (Dr P.C Remodino, 1893), will reduce syphilis by 49% (Dr. Jonathan Hutchinson, London, Lancet. 29th December,1900), will prevent cancer, masturbation and syphilis (A. Wolbarst, USA 1914), will prevent HIV in Africa (Halperpin and Bailey, Lancet, London 1999). Not only has there been a crusade against the foreskin for several hundred years, but its possession has been associated with physical and moral degeneracy. Remodino accused it of being a ‘moral outlaw.’ From the 19th century onwards, and repeatedly, a tight foreskin (phimosis) has been attributed with promoting masturbation (an immorality) and circumcision presented as its cure.  Even as late as 1935, circumcision was being advocated to curb the sins of self abuse.

Nature intends that the adult male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. [Cockshut RW. Circumcision (letter). Br Med J. 1935; 19 October: 764.]

And perhaps the greatest exposé of how dumb nations can be is when parents fall for the shite spouted a ‘medical’ profession which benefits financially from the procedure. In the USA, the procedure produces approx $400 million dollars profit a year in addition, foreskins are sold to biotechnology and cosmetic companies.

Despite the obviously irrational cruelty of circumcision, the profit incentive in American medical practice is unlikely to allow science or human rights principles to interrupt the highly lucrative American circumcision industry. It is now time for European medical associations loudly to condemn the North American medical community for participating in and profiting from what is by any standard a senseless and barbaric sexual mutilation of innocent children. [Paul M. Fleiss. Circumcision. Lancet 1995;345:927.]

At a time when neo-natal circumcision has declined drastically in Australia, the USA and Canada, it should be wholly anticipated that in any  country where medical procedures are paid for by the patient or parent, that claims will now be made that mass circumcision will reduce transmission rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.  The USA is one of the most poxed up countries in the world, and the most poxed up in the developed world and  incredibly high rates of circumcision have done nothing to curb this. Whatever your particular view on the topic, the decision to be circumcised or not should ultimately rest with the consenting individual especially when medical claims are spurious and made in the interests of profit.

and yes, some facecreams really are manufactured from redundant foreskins

Korean circumcision, influenced by the USA’s involvement on the peninsula during the Korean War, is widespread and by the age of conscription most men are circumcised.  However, Korean medical ‘care’ has made a significant leap affixing a pathology to the procedure and the most commonly used term for circumcision, ‘po-kyong’ (포경) isn’t really an operation but the condition a circumcision will cure.  When Korean boys and young men head off for session with the scissors,  it is because  they have been led to believe foreskins are inherently tight and in need of amputation.  Indeed, po-kyong (포경 수슬) is simply phimosis and if you have a foreskin it is naturally phimotic and requires removing – once you’ve paid the fee!  The word for circumcision proper is ‘hal-lye’ (할례) but its usage to describe the procedure is much less common.

So, a few weeks ago I overhear that, ‘Tom is going for his circumcision,’ except what is really said is, ‘Tom is going for his tight ‘foreskin operation.’  And I think, like the majority of boys, he probably hasn’t got a tight foreskin at all. However, the debate about medical ethics vs. profiteering and the pros and cons of the procedure has a long way to go especially in a society where conformity is a perquisite.  With a pathology already affixed to the procedure, and a few more claims waiting in the wings, whaling is a lucrative business and for the foreseeable future the victims are not just parents and boys, but social integrity.

 

RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS SITE

Summer Snippet (an inside view of Korean circumcision)

I Saw a Snood

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