Elwood 5566

A Summer Snippet – Circumcision (포경 수술)

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, Gender, Korean children by 노강호 on August 16, 2010

Circumcision (포경 수술)

If there is one subject rarely talked about in Korea, it is the subject of circumcision. I was actually quite surprised when I discovered that Korea has the highest percentage of secular circumcision in the world, outstripping the USA. Over the age of 18, Korean circumcision rates exceed 90 percent.

By the time boys go to high school, the majority of them will have been circumcised and the most common time to perform this is between 13-16 years of age and usually during the winter vacation.  Some boys are circumcised earlier and a fair number may delay having it done. I occasionally notice university students who are uncircumcised but it is safe to assume that by the time they go to military service, they will have undergone the procedure.

Occasionally, I will know a boy is either about to have a circumcision or has just had one. Sometimes they will tell you and at other times the pained manner in which they walk makes it obvious. On a few occasions the subject has cropped up in lessons but it is never discussed in front of girls. It’s not unusual for a boy to be in classes the day after his operation though some will take a few days off.  Unlike the UK and USA, where non-neonatal circumcision involves a general anesthetic and an overnight stay in hospital, in Korea, it is performed under local anesthetic. Neither are operations performed in hospitals, but clinics which are as prolific as dentists or doctors. There is a circumcision clinic (Urology Clinic) opposite E-mart in Song-So and within minutes of having been circumcised, you can enjoy a Big Mac in their McDonald’s.


Aesthetically, Korean circumcisions are much neater than those performed in some other countries. Traditional circumcision in the Philippines, for example, known as pagtutuli, shouldn’t even be classed as circumcision and in the USA, an additional operation known as frenulectomy (frenuplasty – of which their are various spellings), which as many as 33% of circumcised males have had, removes the highly erogenous frenulum. Parents are not asked for consent to perform this ‘bonus’ procedure and indeed many men are unaware what was removed.  While the subject of circumcision is controversial, frenulectomy slips by unnoticed and most parents are ignorant as to what is involved. In addition, American circumcision has a history of being the most radical. In Korea, frenulectomy is not conflated with circumcision and the type of procedure doesn’t remove as much foreskin as possible.

I underwent a circumcision in August 2001 at the clinic opposite E-Mart, in Song-So. I had been debating the idea for several years and finally decided to take the plunge as I had never been happy with my status, probably because as a boy most of my friends were circumcised. I quite amazed myself at the time as I had visited my doctors and arranged everything for Thursday, 16th of August. The arrangement took less than a minute and there was no asking why I wanted it doing. My doctor simply made a phone call and booked me in. The operation would cost 100.000W (about £50), would take twenty minutes to perform and would be carried out in the same building as my doctor’s surgery.

A suitable totem pole near Kayasan

August 16th, 2001. I had to teach on the Thursday morning and though not as hot as a few weeks previously, it was terribly humid. In my classes, many of which had no air conditioning, my shirt was soaked with sweat. I had already perceived that I wouldn’t be in any fit mental state to teach and so had run-off some word puzzles for the kids. When my classes finished, I  frantically smoked a couples of fags on the back stairwell and paced up and down. I didn’t really want to leave school and there was an unpleasant feeling in my stomach, but eventually everyone wished me luck and I took a taxi home.

I showered and then gave my friend David (이영순) a call. He arrived a few moments later as he had been waiting at the PC Bang, next door. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous, so much so my hands were trembling. Out on the street, we took a taxi and went straight to the clinic. I was early, so we went to the third floor of the building where I had a brief chat and cup of coffee with my doctor. Then, at 1.59 pm, he said, ‘Oh, Nick, it is time.’ And telling me not to worry, I walked down the stairs to the urology clinic. None of the doctors there spoke very good English so David sat in the clinic office with me and asked the surgeon the list of questions I had compiled:

“What happens if I get a hard-on during the operation?”  He laughed and said that wouldn’t happen. What sort of stitches would be used – dissolving or non-dissolving?” I was given a choice and told non-dissolving left less of a scar. “What happens if I get an erection over the next few days?” I was told to stick a cotton bud in my ear or stick my feet in icy water. “’When could I shower next?” Next week!

I was then taken into the operating room which was small and not unlike a dentist’s surgery.  In the center stood that ominous table. Dropping my trousers and boxers I lay down and wondered what the fuck I had let myself in for.

Everything everyone had told me worked out the opposite. David had told me to expect two injections (later it became four) well, I was given eight and they stung. I covered my eyes and ears for the whole operation as there was a radio playing shit Korean music and the three surgeons kept fucking singing along to it. David had told me that sometimes you hear the scissors snicking away and I did, even the radio or the surgeons’ singing didn’t drown it so I had to jam my thumbs in my ears. Then the overhead light was so bright I had to cover my eyes. Several people had said the operation would take around twenty minutes, in fact it took forty. Then, all apart from Pak Ji-won (박지원),  one of my older students, I had been told it wouldn’t hurt. It did! But not at first. Shortly after the snicking sounds finished, I smelt something cooking; I reckon they had either cauterized an artery or one of them was starting a barbecue. It was like my entire senses were being assaulted: the bright light, the noraebang Nahuna rendition and that strange, almost acidic  barbecue smell that lingered.  I had to stretch my fingers so I could pinch my nose shut, bung my ears and cover my eyes to blot everything out.

I think I lay like that for twenty minutes and eventually, felt a numb change in what was happening. I thought they were finishing but next followed a sort of slicing sensation which was very unpleasant because although it wasn’t painful, it felt actually felt like something was being sliced. David  had told me to expect eight stitches. The following  morning I counted 36.   At one point  during the procedure I told them it hurt but they ignored me and just carried on singing along to the radio.

Finally, the pain stopped and I could sense I was being mopped up. I took my clammy hands off my face and sighed. Then I was able to sit up and pull my trousers up. The surgeons, lined up, smiled and bowed. Out in the corridor David was sat reading. I did a little dance for him as I didn’t hurt at all, probably because my system was zinging with adrenalin. Then, we walked over to E-Matt and bought a McDonald’s which we walked home with. Was I hungry!

A common place to see boys hobbling. 미래 Urology Clinic opposite Song-So E-Mart.

The clinic has given me a list of after-care procedures which David had translated into English whilst I was being operated on. It listed things like not drinking for a week because of the antibiotics, not showering for a week, resting for a few days, etc, etc. At the bottom of the list was an amendment  in David’s handwriting, it read….

6. And you must endure not to have a wang! (Wank).

I didn’t hurt at all but throughout the evening, waited for the drugs to wear off and enter what someone had predicted would be, a ‘new world of pain.’ When my roommates arrived home we went out with them to a nearby restaurant. I wasn’t hobbling at all. Strangely, during the night I was worried more by the fact I didn’t hurt. And you wouldn’t believe how effective cotton buds in the ear are at killing an erection. One of the doctor’s had explained that poking a cotton bug in you ear-hole interrupts signals from your dick to brain and terminates any boner.

Friday 17th of August, 2001. In the morning, I was quite worried because it looked very ill. I wondered whether the bandage was too tight. I phoned David but couldn’t get hold of him so, at 8.45 am, I took a taxi to the clinic only to find it didn’t open until 9.30. So I waited in my doctor’s office on the third floor of the building. He sat me down, gave me a cup of coffee, talked to me and soon it was 9.30 am.

Back on the slab, I was checked-out but they didn’t think anything was wrong. Back in the reception area my doctor was waiting for me as he can speak fairly good English. There were three patients sitting behind me, two young women behind the receptionist’s desk, and four surgeons around me. Ten Koreans in all! Everyone was centered on our conversation – which of course, was about my dick!

As I leave, all the staff smile and bow deeply. My doctor invited me up to his surgery for breakfast and there I am introduced to his mother. We ate fruit and sat talking for about two hours and as I was leaving he invited me out to dinner. At the time, my doctor had just moved into the premises and had few patients, today I have to sit in the waiting room for an hour before I can see him.

Saturday August 18th, 2001. Very irritating because the stitches are made from something resembling nylon – like the material used for a toothbrush.

Although not sore, it is uncomfortable walking any distance so I have spent a considerable time lying down under the fan. Most Koreans get circumcised in winter and I would imagine the possibility of infection is higher in a humid climate so I lie under the fan as much as possible. I have been used to showering over 5 times a day and it is very uncomfortable not being able to do so. Showering is not just a hygienic necessity but a hobby and something I do to kill time.

Tuesday 21st of August 2001. Pak Jun-hee (박준희) has been bringing me lunch for the last couple of afternoons. His mandu and kimchi, made by his wife, Sun-hee, in their restaurant, are definitely the best in Song-So. Today, he asked if he could see ‘the results!’ Yes, I was rather shocked because in the UK no one would ask that. It was a strange situation because between us on the table, were the steaming mandu.  Koreans! I love them!

My ‘go-ch’u chin-gu’ of 10 years, Pak Jun-hi and his wife, Sun-hee

Thursday 23rd of August, 2001. My antibiotics and pain killers ran out today and I’ was sore, so much so I had to go and buy some. In the afternoon, I went out to the cinema with Ji-won (박지원, his father is Jun-he). His English has improved so much since I started teaching him back in November. He told me he would be really sad when I left and that he would never forget me. It was all rather poignant. We walked around the Milano area for a while and had pat-ping-soo in a Sweet Water cafe which is just  so tacky it’s unbelievable. It was decorated in pinks and had Barbie dolls and Miss Kitty paraphernalia all over the place. After, we had a burger in Lotteria and then took the bus home  which was painful as the bumpy journey was over the construction area of what is now Daegu Subway system.

Saturday 25th of August, 2001. Saturday and I’m still in pain so I headed back to the clinic with David. My God! What a hideous experience, so hideous I don’t think I can actually do it justice in writing. It’s like I’ve been to a place of pain that I never want to experience again. I went back onto the couch where they decided to remove the stitches and it felt I was being assaulted with a pair of pliers.  I cannot describe how excruciatingly painful it was and I wished they had been singing or cooking a barbecue, anything to take my mind off they pain. At one point, when I flinched, one of them told me off.  When I eventually walked out of the small surgery, and David saw me, me he thought I had soaked my head in water and my hands were shaking badly. However, it was much easier walking without those infernal barbed-wire bonds.

‘Go-ch’u chin-gu,’ David (이영선)

Thursday August 30th, 2001. Life is almost back to normal. On Thursday afternoon I did some of my jobs – paid some bills, went to see Mr Pak at the post office and then we spent the afternoon in the Han Song Plaza bathhouse. With school having just started, the place was empty.


I Saw a Snood

Finding a Pathology to Fit the Procedure

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

I Touch Kiddies and I'm Proud of it! (Eulogy for Children's Day)

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Korean children by 노강호 on May 5, 2010

podcast 16

In the Ebente-tang (이벤트탕) the aroma of the day is jasmine. I now play this game where I try to guess the scent before looking at the  information board. I got it wrong today but then I have a slight cold. For the second time in 2 weeks I saw an older guy with a snood. Anyway, I was thinking…

Not suitable for pumpkin people! (click)

Betty and Becky are two small kids I teach three times a week. Betty is the most adorable little girl you could ever meet. She is always impeccably dressed, usually in her little school uniform of matching gray skirt, jumper and blue blazer and her hair is  usually decorated with some form of hair clip, a sequined butterfly or a flower. Around her neck hangs the customary mobile phone, stark pink with a little teddy bear suspended from it, as is the fashion. She is always laughing and skipping and incredibly happy.

Recently she has been playing the ‘ddong chip game’ (‘똥  injection’) which a few weeks ago I thought must have gone out of fashion until I noticed a couple of boys playing it. This ‘game,’ more of a gesture than a game,  consists of clasping the hands together and extending the index fingers. The custom is to adopt a sort of James Bond stance, holding the clasped hands like a gun, and then poke your index fingers up your victim’s arse. It’s common for kids to do this to teachers. This week however, Betty has struck me twice in the testicles.  The problem is, she has a habit of jumping out from a doorway so that she is under my belly and I can’t see her, at which point she strikes and runs away, giggling. Obsessed with  my hairiness, she constantly strokes my arms, or feels the stubble on my chin and today after a hair cut, she wanted to stroke my head. Sometimes she sits on my knee or hugs my leg, her face almost in my crotch… Beginning to think I’m a paedophile?  If so, that’s actually quite a sad indictment of our society.

As a westerner configured and attuned to sickening sexual predilections, as all westerners are, at this point I feel compelled to offer some defence. You know the kind of crap: ‘I’m not a perv but…..’.  In Britain you can  no longer make ‘statements’ such as: ‘I love children….’ ‘I touch children…’  I like the affection of children…’ without having to subsequently proffer some heavy mitigation to  annihilate any suspicions.  It’s a crazy situation which has been allowed to develop because  electorates are poorly educated in subjects that matter to civilization and easily coaxed and coached to hysteric proportions.  As with all the witch-hunts of the past, professionals have done little or nothing to challenge  proceedings  until a point is reached where  a profession actually emerges to ensure the paranoia remains; a sort of official ‘Witch-Finder General Body’, which will poke and inflame fears and very successfully accuse, or suggest all opposition, especially professional opposition, as a manifestation of the problem itself. Hence, to defend a witch is to be a witch, and to critique paedo-paranoia suggests one is themselves a paedophile. ‘I love animals…,’ ‘ I love the affection of animals…,’ ‘I touch animals…’ needs no mitigation!  Paedo-paranoia, as an ideology and profession which seeks perversion in everything, is as offensive, anti-social and unnatural as the abuse it seeks to prevent.

Betty’s behaviour is totally normal and no Korean would see anything amiss in her physical intimacy with adults. Earlier this week, in a class with two older boys, probably about 10 and 11, I had to lift up my shirt to let them scrutinize the scar across my navel where I had an umbilical hernia repair. Neither did they wait for me to consent before starting to tug my shirt out of my trousers.  On another occasion an older boy who had an allergic reaction to something, pulled off his shirt and asked me to scratch his back and a few weeks later, the same boy asked me to put drops in his sore eye. Patting your stomach, stroking your arms, and playing with your fingers or hand are all regular, natural occurrences which should, in a predominantly healthy society, be associated with our being  human and mammalian. Older kids will give you massages and play with you in a manner I have never witnessed in a British school and which would certainly lead to an interview with management. As for my Korean boss, I’ve seen her on the floor wrestling both girls and boys and I’ve seen a boy give her husband a massage on his thigh, very close to his groin,  after he pulled a muscle. All totally natural ! Those whose minds have been poisoned with all that western crap, and from which I am not excluded, supposedly premised on love but in practice totally the opposite and in which everyone,  especially men, are  potential molesters, are likely to see such behaviour as suspect. Of course , child abuse goes on in Korea,  probably more than we  are aware off.  But thankfully, during my life time, social relationships in Korea will not be perversified and terrorized to an extent where every adult is a demon and every touch between adult and child  a  potential case of abuse, to the same obsessive level it currently enjoys back home. I like contact with kids and see it as a part of natural, human relationships. If  indeed the sexual abuse of kids is so high in the west, it is perhaps time we reevaluated either western human sexuality or human sexuality itself.  Let’s face it, compared to Korean society, many facets  of western life are fucking messed!  Teenage pregnancy, sex diseases,  anti-intellectualism, gross male machoism,  rampant crime and violence.

In the UK in August 2007, a company launched Kevlar  padded school uniforms to protect children from knife attacks.  Perhaps our sexualities are fucked, too? The way we dress our daughters would suggest paedophilia is a prevalent predilection much closer to home rather than an offbeat obsession of strangers.  What Daddy wants to see their daughter dressed like a tart? Clearly, many! Currently, in the  UK, much debate is raging about Primark’s marketing of a padded bra / bikini for 8 year old’s! This joins similar promiscuous products of tweeny-hood such as thongs for six-year old’s emblazoned with two cherries and the caption ‘Eat Me!‘ (Argos)  Marks and Spencer’s, ‘Angel ‘ range of thongs for 7 year old’s  and the pole dancing kit for kiddies.

Of course, when you try to explain to Koreans about the sicker side of western society, the crime, teenage pregnancy, anti-intellectualism, the high rates of teenage infection by sexually transmitted diseases, the promiscuity, our obsession with sex etc, etc, it is rarely really comprehended. Several years ago I was in a bathhouse with my Korean friend, David. It was a hot and sticky afternoon in August and we’d gone to a mogyotang (목요탕) to cool off in the cold pool. As it was the  summer vacation there were a number of children present including a 12-year-old American boy who was on his own. A 12-year-old boy naked and alone in a public place! In the UK, paedo-paranoia is so great kids can’t even go to school alone let loiter in a bathhouse unaccompanied and nude. For a  while we played with a couple of small boys, flipping them into the air with clasped hands in which they put a foot. The American boy, whom we’d chatted with for a little, sat on the edge of the activity and at one point, David tried to encourage him to join in. When David touched the boy’s shoulder I noticed him tense up and I had to explain that for westerners, such physical intimacy is uncomfortable. It was a miracle the boy was in a bathhouse in the first place.

Childrens Day

Physical intimacy for westerners is now predominantly perceived as a sexual act which means that innocent intimacy, especially  between adult and child, is branded suspect and a potential grooming process which could lead to sexual abuse. And if professionals such as social workers, teachers, the police, etc, aren’t enforcing paedo-paranoia,  they are mute in any criticism of it.  Indeed many teachers and other professionals will encourage paedo-paranoia.

Occasionally, though perhaps more so in the past, grandparents or relatives tweaked small kids between the legs, more so boys than girls, sometimes as a game and other times if checking the gender of a baby, and when this was witnessed by a foreign teacher in a school in which I taught several years ago, I found her crying hysterically in an adjoining office. She was adamant this was sexual abuse and wanted to know where she could report the incident. That this was a foreign country with different values and that  it was not a sexual act, fell on deaf ears.  One only has to talk to a professional involved in ‘child protection’ to sense their sickened mind-set, that everyone is suspect, that every intimate gesture must be scrutinized and that it is a perversion which is rife throughout society. In such discussions one always feels judged, that you too must be ‘one’ and hence the intense need to mitigate yourself. Krystalnacht, the Salem Witch Trials, the persecution of women in the middle ages, the Spanish Inquisition, McCarthyism,  all were spurned and inspired by the babble, conflation and hyperbole of ‘professional’ witch-finders.

Physical intimacy with students or Koreans doesn’t phase me and if you think it’s just kids that are so lax about bodies, body proxemics and touching, it’s not. Several years ago a friend of mine who is totally heterosexual, asked to see my dick.  There was a reason, non sexual, which I will save for a later post, but I had to take it out for him to inspect. He had just delivered my lunch  and the steaming mandu were on the table between the two of us as I unzipped.    Then, almost as if returning a favour, he nonchalantly showed me his vasectomy. Tackle zipped away, we sat down and tucked into the mandu which, made by his wife, happen to be the best I have eaten.

So, ‘I touch kiddies’ and I don’t mind when they ‘touch me!’ Indeed I’m proud to say, ‘I touch kiddies.’ And if you think this is perverse you can throw me in water and if I float, I’m guilty. Matthew Hopkins, Witch-Finder General, a medieval ‘professional babbler,’  was paid a pound for every witch he discovered and the  water test was one of his prime methods of exposing them. Needless to say, with a livelihood premised on the existence of witches, and so, so many of them,  he found them everywhere.  Until that was, so legend says, it was discovered he too floated and he was promptly executed.

We have foisted a range of fears onto children and youngsters that lead them to perceive potential danger in innocent interactions, have taught them to distrust intimacy, to seek perversion in others and most perverse of all, taught them that intimacy is solely sexual. It is future generations  that will have to endure the anti-social, anti-human damage wrought by those perverted ‘professional babblers’ and a society who kept silent!

But that is back in the perverted West. Meanwhile, here in Korea it is Children’s Day and my school is taking some students to the park. We’re going to play!

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©  林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Links to the ‘padded bra for 8 year old’s debate in the UK:




I Saw a Snood

Alleged Korean mafia member

podcast 12

I was laying in the hot pool (열탕) this evening. I never hang around in there too long as this one is quite hot  and fifteen minutes is my maximum. As it was empty, I could wedge myself in my favourite corner and watch the television. Then this man with a large dragon tattooed on his thigh stepped into the pool. People often tell me that a tattoo is a sign of mafia membership but that might be prejudice. Last week I saw the first person I have ever seen in Korea with a tattoo on a part of the body not easily covered. It was a large cross which extended from the base of his neck right up until just under his ear. It wasn’t a good design and looked like he’d done it himself. A tattoo on the neck! That’s a bad sign and I heard myself mutter, ‘wanker,’ exactly as I do when I see those silly kids on hairdryer motorcycles zig-zaging from one side of the road to the other with an enormous speaker, masking-taped to the petrol tank and blaring at full volume over the whinnying strains of the engine. Yea, I know, those kids are probably harmless, but I had enough anti-social behaviour in the UK to last a life time.  A tattoo on the neck in Korea, will definitely impede life to the max!

The guy stands in front of me so his buttocks and are facing me, and for a few moments he stands watching the TV. I’ve seen plenty of guys with this sort of tattoo as well as the one cascading down the back and they’re never unfriendly or aggressive – not as you might expect a gang member to be. I’ve also noticed how many of them have the same stocky, slightly pot-bellied physiques. The water was starting to get uncomfortable but as I was going to change pools, the ‘ice room’ was calling me, Mafia Man turns about  and I get a glimpse of the first snood I’ve seen in several months.  Snoods are not common in bathhouses, but on non-western adults at least, they are  about as common as a foreskin.

Anyone who has ventured into a bathhouse will have noticed, especially if they come from Europe, that all Korean men are circumcised. Indeed Korea has the highest rate of non-religious circumcision in the world – thanks to the influence of the USA in the 1950’s. Meanwhile, N. Koreans remain intact. Finding data and statistics or indeed any information on the phenomenon of Korean circumcision is as difficult as finding information on frenulectomy / frenoplasty; the additional operation which the majority of American boys are subject to and which chops away even more of their dicks than their circumcision. When health ‘care’ secretly removes parts of the body and the victims don’t even know whats been removed, let alone their parents, it ceases to be ‘care.’

Korean circumcisions are usually performed shortly before the boy is about to go to middle school, the average age being around  13, though  for some it may be performed earlier and it is certainly not uncommon to see uncircumcised high school or even first year university students.  However, it is probably safe to assume 99.9% of males have been circumcised by the time they are conscripted into the forces. That this operation is not performed in infancy may be explained by the fact that until fairly recently, infant mortality rates were high  and circumcision placed an added risk  on a boy’s life. Unlike the USA, Korea has not exploited the clandestine removal of the frenulum.   Clinics for circumcising boys, most popular during the winter vacation, are as common as supermarkets and indeed, my local E-Mart has a clinic opposite so you can have your dick mutated and be sat in E-Mart McDonald’s in less time than a scale and polish. Operations taking about thirty minutes, are performed under local anesthetic and cost between 60.000 – 100.000 won (30-50 UK pounds).

And this is exactly what it looks like!

Back to the snood! When I first started going to bathhouses, I quite often saw a couple of guys with these very weird-looking things hanging from the underside of their dicks. At first, I thought they must have had botched circumcisions but I now know they were either Filipino or had been ‘circumcised,’ Filipino style, which is known as pagtutuli. The traditional Filipino version, which simply cleaves the foreskin in two, and then lets it hang off the underside like a chunk of fat,  hence the ‘snood,’ qualifies as a circumcision  about as much as rasping your face with the cheese grater qualifies as a face-lift. Meanwhile, if you want to know what happens to all those foreskins in the US – it’s a mega-buck industry with neonatal foreskins the most lucrative. Want to buy a batch? Apparently, they make very good anti-aging cream! Personally, I’ll stick with Nivea. http://ccr.coriell.org/Sections/BrowseCatalog/?SId=3

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.