Male Circumcision in South Korea

History, Statistics, and the Role of Doctors in Creating a Circumcision Rate of Over 100%
  • Myung-Geol Pang
  • Sae Chul Kim
  • DaiSik Kim


The purpose of this study is to examine thoroughly the history of South Korean male circumcision and to investigate the factors contributing to the present unusual situation. We surveyed 5,434 South Korean males between the ages of 0 and 92 years regarding their circumcision status, the age at circumcision, and the possible effect of circumcision on their sexuality. In addition, we interviewed 267 practicing medical doctors on their basic understanding regarding circumcision as well as their own circumcision status and history. The circumcision rate in the year 1945 was less than 0.1%. At present, the circumcision rate for high school boys exceeds 90%, and for 80 year olds it is less than 5%. When averaged over the whole population, the present South Korean circumcision rate is about 60%. The circumcision rate increased dramatically over the years and, particularly in the past 20 years, the estimated number of male circumcisions performed has far exceeded the number of male births. Although circumcision in South Korea is not of a religious nature and has been strongly influenced by Americans, it has never been predominantly neonatal. The circumcision age has continued to decrease, and boys are now circumcised at around age 12. Forty-one percent of polled doctors circumcise, but, unlike the United States, gynecologists and pediatricians rarely circumcise. Doctors’ basic knowledge about circumcision is generally lacking, regardless of whether they practice circumcision or not. There exist many interesting misunderstandings among doctors and the general public regarding circumcision’s cultural and geographical aspects, and its correlations with general prosperity and medical advancement. We have documented the unusual history of circumcision in South Korea from the very beginning. The present situation has been created through combinations of many factors. Chief among the contributing factors is the mistaken notion held by both doctors and the general public that circumcision is directly correlated with industrialization and general progress of living standards. Many doctors believe in out-dated and sometimes controversial benefits for circumcision: for instance, prevention of cervical cancer. Not surprisingly, with these beliefs, the vast majority of doctors have recommended circumcision regardless of patient’s age or penile condition. Since millions of Korean males were circumcised long after they had been sexually active, South Korea offers a unique opportunity to study the effect of circumcision on sexuality.


Cervical Cancer Male Circumcision Premature Ejaculation Penile Cancer Male Birth 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Myung-Geol Pang
    • 1
  • Sae Chul Kim
    • 2
  • DaiSik Kim
    • 3
  1. 1.GenDix, Inc., and Institute of Reproductive Medicine and Population, Medical Research CenterSeoul National UniversitySouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of Urology, College of MedicineChung Ang UniversitySouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsSeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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