Kang In Ho is hired as a art teacher in a school for deaf children, outside of Seoul, in Mujin. He is looking for a change; his wife passed away and his daughter now lives with his mother. In Ho knows sign language and hopes to connect with the children at Ja Ae Academy. Yet, his cheerfulness and enthusiasm quickly deem as he discovers that children are reserved and seem to be scared of something.
Through multiple conversations, In Ho realizes that Principal Lee and his twin brother seem to care little about the children’s well being. It’s all about being strict and disciplining the children. Yet, there seems to be more than that. Principal Lee and his brother are not the only ones spreading terror among the children.
In Ho sees Yeon Du, one of the students, having her head shoved down a laundry machine by one of the teachers. When In Ho takes her to the hospital he finds out that she was sexually assaulted at school. Young girls are not the only victims. Young boys are also assaulted.
Other alarming signs include teachers repeatedly beating children who try to run away. Children who run away are immediately brought back by a police officer, who is bribed by the principal.
In Ho is touched by what he sees, but he is worried about losing his job. In Ho’s mother has been supportive of him and helped him follow his dreams to the point of giving up her house. The mother is also the one raising his daughter Sol, and that is even harder since Sol is asthmatic.
In Ho is helped by Seo Yoo Jin, a young activist who helps bring the story to the attention of media.
1) The Crucible is based on a true story, which makes the movie even more powerful. Despite numerous reports of abuse, Munhwa – where the true story happens – kept running but when the movie came out, authorities decided to step up and started investigating.
2) Young children, especially if they suffer from a disability, are easy preys. They have no one to turn to and their families are not always there for them. I feel that if parents had been more involved in their children’s lives such horrors might have been avoided. At no point in the movie can we see parents visiting their children. Some of the children might be orphans, but I assume it’s not the case for all of them. I wonder if the parents had given up on the children because of them being deaf.
3) What surprised me was the number of people covering the wrongdoings of the principle and others. From the bribed police officer to the school security guard and even the religious community.
Principal Lee and his brother had mastered the art of deception. They contributed large amounts to their religious community and used their pretense of devotion to defend their reputations. Those who didn’t want to directly protect the Principal and other culprits preferred not to get involved in the case. Testifying could cost them their jobs. For instance, the obstetrician and gynecologist who diagnoses Yeon Du later backs down during the trial. She retracts her report and claims that it is impossible for Yeon Du to have been sexually assaulted. At the beginning, In Ho was scared to take a stand and defend the children. It’s no easy thing to risk one’s comfort and security for other people’s sake.
4) I am glad that the children’s voices were heard. They might not have the justice they deserved, but the world knows that such monsters exist.
4) Overall the movie highlights society’s failure to deal with violence against women, child abuse and molestation. I have selected a few links if you are interested in additional readings concerning the issues above mentioned in South Korea. A few things have changed in the past few years. For instance, data shows that the number of assaults has increased. That might sound totally negative, but reports also indicate that it’s most likely because more women gather the courage to take legal action.
~ maniac Ride