Directed by Lee Su-jin, Han Gong-ju (2013) is a South Korean film starring Chun Woo-hee in the title role.
Based on the infamous 2014 Miryang gang rape, the film follows a rape victim named Gong-ju who is forced to change schools and trying to rebuild her life.
The movie premiered at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival. It also won numerous award including the Golden Star at the 2013 Marrakech International Film Festival, the Jury Prize, the Critic’s Prize and the Audience Award at the 2014 Deauville Asian Film Festival.
Any and every rape case is heinous, but the Miryang gang rape case and the issues around it will make your blood boil.
Here are five things you need to know about Miryang gang rape, the case which inspired Korean movie Han Gong–ju (2013):
1.Behind the scenes of Han Gong–ju (2013)
Speaking to the Korean Film Council in an interview, director Lee Su-jin said the movie was inspired by a true story although he did not attempt to recreate the entire story.
Instead, the director decided to focus more on the life of the victim after the crime rather than on the crime itself.
At the same time, he wanted to give courage to all the Han Gong-jus out there who find themselves in the same situation.
In 2004, at least 41 male high school students gang raped several middle school and high school girls over the course of 11 months in Miryang city.
The first victim was raped up to 10 times by three to 24 high school boys in each occurrence.
The boys even blackmailed her to keep quiet unless she wanted pictures of her rape to spread around her school.
Then, the girl was ordered to bring her cousin and younger sister. Both of them became victims of the boys’ assaults. The boys were also accused of raping two other girls.
3.What happened to the criminals?
One of the victims’ aunts reported the rape to the police. In the beginning, the policeman only arrested three of the boys. This triggered anger and protests from the public.
The police subsequently arrested nine other students and booked 19 of them without detention.
The most frustrating part was that ultimately only five of the suspects were sent to a juvenile detention center. None of the 41 rapists were convicted of criminal charges.
Rumour has it that some of the boys came from affluent families but it is not confirmed.
This is not the only time the South Korean court was accused of giving light sentences in a rape case.
In an unrelated case, a suspected rapist was acquitted by the South Korean court due to his penis being too curved (!) to have been put in the victim’s vagina without assistance.
4.The aftermath of the Miryang gang rape
In 2008, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered the state to compensate the victims for violating their rights and leaking their identities to the media.
One of the police officers who was stationed at the Ulsan Southern District Police Precinct allegedly told the victim, “You have ruined the reputation of Miryang.”
Some other comments by the police include “Did you try to entice the guys?”, “The boys would lead the city were all arrested” and “I am afraid that my daughter will be like you.”
Moreover, the police leaked enough documents to the media for them to identify the victims.
Even worse, the police forced the victims to directly face the suspects instead of viewing them through a one-way mirror.
The Supreme Court stated in the ruling, “By making the victims identify their attackers in an open area, the police failed to protect the rights of the victims and caused them to suffer humiliation. Such an act can never be justified even with the stated claim by the police that they did so to expedite the probe.”
With that the court said the state must pay each victim 30 million won and their mothers 10 million won.
5.The similarities between Miryang gang rape and Han Gong-ju (2013)
The movie never directly references the real-case, although when the main character Gong-ju (Chun Woo-hee) is asked by her friend at her new school if she’s ever been kissed, after a painful pause – Gong-ju replies about 40 times. This is the number of offenders in the real life Miryang case.
Another similarity is when a group of angry parents attacked Gong-ju for having put their sons in jail.
In the Miryang case, one of the girls reportedly had to quit school. She was repeatedly visited by the boys’ parents in the classroom and verbally attacked for reporting their sons to the police.
Besides that, the victims were blamed for “seducing the boys” and “not behaving properly as girls.”