Silenced or The Crucible is a South Korean box office hit that was released in 2011. The movie is actually a movie adaptation from Gong Ji-young’s novel of the same title.
The novel is based on a real life incident that took place at Gwangju Inhwa School for the hearing-impaired, where young deaf students in that school were the victims of repeated sexual assaults by the school administration members and a teacher over a period of five years in the early 2000s.
In the movie, Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo) is the newly appointed art teacher at Benevolence Academy, a deaf school for children in the fictional city of Mujin, North Jeolla Province. He has a dark past; his wife was a high school student who committed suicide and his daughter is under the care of his mother.
Kang In-ho is excited to teach his new students, but one thing that makes him wonders; why do the children in that school are aloof and distant, try to avoid him?
In-ho doesn’t give up because as a teacher, he does care about the children. When the children finally open up – the time when he witnesses the school dormitory’s warden beating a male student with brutality and other incident with his own eyes, he was so shocked. He finally faces the shocking and ugly truth about the school and what the students have been undergoing in secret.
When In-Ho decides to fight for the students’ rights and expose the crimes being committed at the school, he teams up with a human rights activist, See Yoo-Jin.
Unfortunately, he and Yoo-Jin realizes that their action is worthless as the school’s principal and teachers, even the police and prosecutors in the community are actually trying to cover up the truth.
Into the bargain, the perpetrators do not falter to lie and bribe their way to be charge with the lightest sentences by using their ‘Jeon-gwan-ye-u’ (privileges of former post).
GWANGJU INHWA SCHOOL CASE
Gwangju Inhwa School was a school for hearing-impaired students founded in 17 April 1961 and located in Gwangju, South Korea.
According to a 2005 investigation, six teachers, including the principal, sexually molested or raped at least nine of their deaf-mute students between 2000 and 2003. A newly appointed teacher alerted human rights groups in 2005, for which he afterwards fired from his job.
Nine victims came forward, but more victims were believed to have concealed additional crimes in fear of repercussions or because of trauma. The police began an investigation four months later, only after former students talked to a national TV station.
As the Gwangju city government and school board hurled the case back and forth, students and parents pointed a sit-in for eight months outside their offices, calling for justice.
Four of the six perpetrators received prison terms, while the other two were at liberty immediately because the decree of limitations for their crimes had expired. The local court sentenced the principal to a five-year term in prison, and four others received quite heavy penalties.
Unfortunately, among those jailed, two were released after less than a year in jail after their terms were suspended. The case did not draw much media attention when it went to trial in 2005.
From my own point of view as the viewer of the movie, this movie has more strengths than weakness.
The strengths that can be seen throughout the movie itself if you watch it, the purpose of to put front the Gwangju Inhwa School case to the public is just brilliant. The film ignited public objection over lenient court rulings. This prompted police to reopen the case and lawmakers to introduce bills for the human rights of the vulnerable.
This can be seen in the movie when the judge give lenient sentence to defendants represented by a lawyer who until recently was his colleague on the bench.
In the movie also it shows that a police detective in the Mujin city been pockets cash from a school principal who is both a church leader and heartless rapist. That is the reasons the police department team in Mujin city did not take any action regarding the cases being portrayed in the movie.
Hwang Dong-Hyeok, the film’s director said that he wanted to show that terrible things still happen in the society eventhough the society has developed a lot.
For me, this movie has successfully being able to give consciousness to the public and to the government in the first place as South Korea’s law – some of them, does not deepening equality.
This is being exposed in the movie when the city was failing to protect the helpless while some of the rich and powerful acted as if they were above the law because in South Korea, sex crimes generally can be prosecuted only if the victim presses charges and charges are often dropped if a financial settlement is reached between the defendant and the plaintiff.
Well, thanks to this movie that in 2009, the law was revised to require that all sex crimes involving alleged victims aged 18 or under be prosecuted, even if they have not themselves pressed charges.
The government has promised to lengthen the revised law to cases where the alleged victims are mentally or physically disabled. A sign-language translator also was provided in the courtroom for the disabled trial after the movie was released.
The Silenced or The Crucible film became a box office hit which tells about the Gwangju Inhwa School case. Two months after the film’s released and the resulting controversy, Gwangju City shut down the school officially in 2011.