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January 13, 2004

A Clip of the Tongue

A trend among South Korean parents to have their children's tongues surgically altered in an effort to improve their English pronunciation has been in the news recently. The growing popularity of the practice forced the government to commission a film that shows the operation in progress. A frenulotomy involves clipping the thin tissue beneath the tongue, and is mistakenly believed to make it easier for children to pronounce English correctly, in particular the L and R sounds. "Tongue-Tie", made by the National Human Rights Commission, shows a young boy screaming as his mother and nurses hold him down during the procedure. The mother says "it's all for his future," a comment that reflects an increasingly common attitude among young Korean parents since compulsory English lessons were introduced from the third grade four years ago. Local media say the practice is widespread among wealthy parts of the capital, Seoul, though doctors insist the reports are exaggerated.

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