Song Hye Kyo‘s most recent hit, The Glory, has taken the globe by storm with just the first half of the show. The story revolves around a victim of school violence who grows up to seek revenge. Compared to usual K-Dramas, The Glory depicts the brutality of school bullying in South Korea way more graphically, to the point where some viewers were confused if it was realistic or exaggerated. But according to a school commissioner, it’s usually worse.
MBC Radio‘s program News High Kick recently had Choi Woo Sung as a guest. Choi is a school commissioner at the Gyeonggi Suwon Office of Education, and he supervises cases related to school violence. On the show, he was asked if the scene where Moon Dong Eun’s bullies torture her with a hot curling iron is realistic. Choi replied, “The reality is even worse.”
Previously, the same scene had caused an uproar in South Korean internet forums after people rediscovered that the scene was potentially inspired by a real bullying case.
But Choi offered another reference that was very close to the violence depicted in The Glory. In 2006, it was reported that a group of students at a middle school in Cheongju assaulted a student for around 20 days straight. The group, led by Kim, a 15-year-old at that time, had beaten the victim “A” with a baseball bat, burned her arm a hair iron inside the classroom, and scrathed her chest with a clothespin.
At that time, the victim suffered severe burns and a protruding tailbone. She required 5 to 6 weeks of hospitalization…The perpetrators also confessed that they had punished the victim by ripping off the scabs that had formed on her scars with their fingernails.
—Choi Woo Song, MBC Radio
Choi pointed out several other cases of violence involving minors. The Yangsan Girls’ Middle School Assault Case that happened in 2021 involved a foreign student who was assaulted by a group of middle schoolers. The perpetrators had recorded the assault and distributed it on internet forums.
In the Cheonghak-dong Dormitory Cruelty Case (2020), the victim was forced by a group of girls to drink urine after they had inserted foreign objects into her body. The North Gyeonggi’s Snow Bed Sexual Assault Case (2022) is the most recent incident of such kind that left the nation in shock. A 12-year-old boy sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl on a block of snow he had made to look like a bed.
Commissioner Choi then expressed his deep regret over the fact that most of the perpetrators were below the age of 14, which allowed them the protection of law. In most school violence cases, the perpetrators get to enjoy legal protection because they are considered “juvenile delinquents.” The term refers to children between the ages of 10 to 14 who committed crimes but are subject to protection. They are sentenced lightly with community service or juvenile detention instead of criminal punishment.
In all three cases, some of the perpetrators or all of the perpetrators were juveniles under the age of 14, so there was a limit to punishing them…I agree that the standard age limits should be gradually lowered as (the perpetrators) are getting younger and their crimes are more sophisticated and violent…At the same time, as a society our efforts need to edify and prevent such incidents from happening in the first place.
—Choi Woo Song, MBC Radio
In December last year, the South Korean government passed a bill to bring down the upper age limit from 14 to 13 in the Juvenile Justice, And Delinquency Prevention Act.