When teaching elementary classes, my first year in Korea I had a class of mostly boys that I loved. We spent most of the class time casually talking, them asking questions about American culture or just plain goofing off (aka teaching them American slang. I had one boy walk in class every day yelling ‘what’s up!’ and telling me that he was a lady’s man. I’m never going to win teacher of the year). It was always the highlight of my day. It was the type of classroom environment that every teacher wishes they could reproduce for every single class and one where the kids felt comfortable confiding in me.
One day that ‘comfort’ went a little further than I thought it would. One of my students came limping into class and when I asked what happened he turned bright red while the rest of the students clamored over who would get to play charades and attempt to tell me what happened. The lucky one chosen held up his finger proudly (as the affected students slumped into his seat even more) and made a cutting motion. He cut his finger? I asked, confused as to why he would be limping. ‘No no no! Teacher!’ all the boys yelled at once. ‘A part very important to a man!’ Cue the bright red face of the teacher.
When they saw my confusion they asked if the same thing happened in the states. I told them that yes, it was very common but it happens to babies. The conversation went on with the students supreme confusion and tinge of jealousy that in America they do the procedure while the boy is still an infant, not at the age of 13 like what is most common in Korea. Because from what I was told, they feel that in Korea it would be cruel to have a baby circumcised but is perfectly ok on a 13 year old boy when he understands why they are doing it. Personally, baby or 13 years old, I don’t think any boy is going to be thrilled about it, let alone ‘understand’ why they are getting it done.