About a year ago, a film entitled ‘Silenced (도가니, ‘Dogani’ in the metaphorical Korean title meaning ‘Crucible’) was released in South Korea that immediately aroused a wave of public outrage. The film deals with the much-known true story of sexual violence occurred for several years in a special school for deafs in the city of Gwangju. The most striking feature of the movie was not only the vividly depicted rape scenes on deaf children, but also its conclusion that leaves its viewers with solid feelings of frustration and anger that the injustice still continues outside the screen.
The newly appointed art teacher witnesses that the children have been subjected to physical and sexual abuses under the school staff, including the principal, executive director, teacher and residential supervisor who are all connected by family and marriage. Shocked and outraged, he files a lawsuit against them, but the result turns out to be fruitless… The most powerful staff in the school, namely the principal and executive director (who are depicted as twins in the film reflecting that they are actual brothers in the real story) are suspended sentences of 1-2 years in prison and the male teacher, whose assaults have driven a young boy into suicide, is also released without punishment.
With so much social and political implications, it’s not a proud film to watch for South Koreans because its stark revelation of the limitations of the legal system and rampant corruption within the largest welfare foundations in the country that are supposed to protect and provide for the vulnerable. The interrelation between fact and fiction is inseparable in this film that leaves its conflict unresolved, echoing the ongoing struggles to reform the social welfare system. Without such a change, resolution will never be possible.