South Korea: Movie Prompts Outrage Over Disabled Child Sex Crimes

In South Korea, the movie ‘Crucible’ has brought a long-forgotten rape case to light. It is based on the true story of disabled children who were continuously raped by school officials for five years; the offenders however, walked away from the courtroom nearly unscathed.

The movie, which has been a major hit for several consecutive weeks and been seen by several million Koreans, has sparked calls for the reinvestigation of the crime and amendment of related law articles.

The serial rapes were done to hearing-impaired kids in a special education institution in Gwangju city. The case was unearthed by an insider report in 2005 and brought into the public eye in 2009 in the novel ‘Dogani’, on which the movie is originally based.

The offenders, including the school headmaster, were indicted, but of the six school officials involved, only two received jail terms of less than a year, while two were sentenced to probation and the remaining two went unpunished. The trailer can be viewed on YouTube:

Less than a week since the movie was released, over 74,000 netizens have signed an online petition [ko] demanding further investigation. Accepting public calls for action, a special police team has been set up and Gwangju city has decided to shut down [ko] the school. The Supreme Court plans to draft [ko] a new bill that will enable courts to order harsher punishments for sex crimes on disabled individuals.

Even the Grand National Party, the nation's ruling party, is discussing [ko] enabling judges to punish sex crimes on under-age kids retrospectively. The Twittersphere lit up with responses, with many saying that they felt repulsed, uneasy, helpless and angry after watching the movie.

Twitter user @lovely__StaR tweeted [ko] :

나도 도가니보고 기분 찝찝했어요. 분노와 슬픔과 뭐라 형용할 수 없는 감정이 뒤섞여서.

After I watched the movie, I felt really uneasy because all these feelings – anger, sadness and something indescribable – are all jumbled together.

Son So-ra (@BbiBbiZz) tweeted [ko] :

불편한 진실이라는 수준을 넘어서 듣고도,알고도,외면하고 싶은 지경에 진실인것같다.. 아역배우들의 부모님들이 출연결정을 내린것이 참 대단할정도다!

It is beyond an uncomfortable truth. It is the truth we don't want to listen and we wish to turn away from, even though we knew it does exist. I applaud the parents of the young actors for their courageous decision of allowing their kids to star in such a movie.

Sports journalist, Seoh Ho-jung (@goalgoalsong) tweeted [ko] :

전 분노를 넘어 사회 구성원으로 책임감을 느꼈어요. 사회적 약자에 무관심했던 걸 반성했고요.

Beyond anger, I felt the sense of responsibility as a member of society. And I deeply regret that I've been so apathetic toward underprivileged groups in our society.

Seoh Young-seok(@du0280) tweeted [ko] that the city where the scenes are taking place is a reflection of the darker aspects of our society:

무진이란 작은 도시 속에서 교직채용비리, 경찰과 학원재벌들과의 유착관계, 전관예우 변호사의 비리적 현실, 학연과 돈에 넘어가는 의사와 판사, 변호사. […]축소판이더군요.

There is so much corruption in that small city of Mujin. There is corruption in the teacher hiring process, the chain of collusive ties between police and academic institute moguls, the back-scratching alliance of lawyers and former judges, and those doctors, judges and lawyers bending over for money and (making decisions) in favor of someone from their academic clique. It is a microcosm of our society.

Dong Soo (@taiot) tweeted [ko] a famous line from the movie. It is said by a male character who fought against the school authority for the kids but was finally kicked out of the school.

세상을 바꾸려는 게 아니라 세상이 나를 바꾸지 못하게 싸우는 것이다”(도가니)

It is not about changing the world, but I am fighting against the world forcing me to change.

Among numerous social media responses, tweets by Kim Kwang-jin (@cop5680) have invited controversy. Kim is the police officer in Gwangju who investigated the rape case several years ago. Kim tweeted [ko]:

어느덧 6년이라는 세월이 흘렀고, 그 사건 이후 내 기억 속에 서서히 사라져 갔던 그 애들을 기억하기 위해 당시 사건을 같이 수사했던 선배 형사와 함께 영화관을 찾았다. 6년전 광주 인화학교에 다니던 여학생들에게 피해내용을 확인하면서 세상에서 일어나지 말아야 할 일들이 너무 많다고 생각했다. 경찰관으로 재직하면서 여러가지 사건을 접해보았지만 그 사건은 세상의 모든 단어를 사용 하더라도 제대로 표현할 수 없었다.[…]정상인도 그런 피해를 당하면 제대로 표현하지 못하는 법인데, 하물며 아픔을 감내하며 고사리 같은 손으로 만든 일그러지고 처절한 그들의 수화에 미안하고 또 미안했다.

Six years have passed since that rape case and my memory of those kids got blurry over the years. To revive my memory of those kids, I went to the movie with my senior partner with whom I investigated the case. [Back when he was investigating the case] As I delved further into what had happened to those young female students in Gwang-ju In-wha school, I felt that there are so many things going on this world that should never be happening. Although I had experienced various different cases, in this case – even with using all the words that ever existed in the world dictionary – it is impossible to describe [the brutality of ] this case. […] Even non-disabled people, when they became the victim of such assaults, they have a hard time describing the crime scene, but those kids who are using sign languages to describe what had happened… When I watched the scene of the kids forcing themselves to describe the brutal, cruel situation with their small hands, I felt really sorry.

Kim later added that some of the scenes in the movie, such as the police taking bribes from the headmaster to cover up the case, excessive police brutality to protesters and a student victim killed by a train accident were added up to spice up the movie.

Best-selling novelist Kong Ji-young who wrote the novel ‘Dogani’, acknowledged this aspect but lambasted [ko] Kim for delaying the investigation. Kong tweeted [ko] that if they were really sorry, the police should not have delayed the investigation for four months for no apparent reason. Kim explained that the four month delay was spent laying groundwork for investigation.

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