Starring Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi, Silenced or Dogani is a 2011 South Korean drama film.
The plot is based on real-life events of young deaf students sexually assaulted by faculty members for over five years in the early 2000s.
Here what you need to know about the real story behind Silenced (2011):
1.The movie was inspired by Gong Ji-young’s novel The Crucible
The title of the novel is taken from Arthur Miller’s play of the same name which was based on the real-life events leading to the witch trials of Salem in 1692.
In order to write the story, Ji-young visited the school more than 10 times. She also interviewed those connected with the case, including the victims.
2.How the sex abuse came to light
Gwangju Inhwa School was first established on Apr 17, 1961. Initially, it was founded as the Jeonnam Deaf-Mute Welfare Centre before becoming a junior high school.
Then in 1993, they opened the senior high school section.
Just like in Silenced, a teacher came out to report on the sexual abuse. In 2005, the newly appointed teacher alerted human rights groups. He disclosed that the headmaster had raped a girl in his office while an administrative officer groped a 22-year-old student.
Overall, six teachers were accused as nine victims came forward. Even though the number of victims were believed to be higher, most victims refused to testify out of fear.
The maddening part was that half of the accused were freed immediately because their cases’ statutes of limitation had expired.
At first, the court sentenced the headmaster, the son of the school founder to a five-year term in prison. But the court later reduced the sentence for the headmaster, giving him probation and a 3 million won fine. The rest also received reduced sentences.
The worst thing after the trial was that the victims were ousted from the school. Meanwhile, the school kept 22 students while receiving 1.8 billion won in state subsidies annually.
Some of the teachers who were accused of the sex crimes even returned to the school to teach.
The teacher who complained about the abuse was subsequently fired from his job.
3.The school is also accused of starving their students to death.
While the school was accused of sex crimes since early 2000s, the crime against students reportedly goes back as early as 1964.
A former teacher came forward claiming two students were abused to death and buried them secretly.
According to Kim Yeong-il, the first case took place in October 1964. The vice principal reportedly starved a seven-year-old orphan boy and later beat him to death.
Together with a teacher, the vice principal buried him on a mountain about 7 kilometers from the school.
Six months later, another child died. Kim alleged that the 6-year-old was also starved by the teachers there. The poor starved girl even resorted to eating wallpaper. She was then killed by a caretaker who threw her off a building.
Kim reported both cases to the police in the 1960s but since there were no dead bodies, there were no cases against the school. After he reported the cases, the vice principal and principal (both brothers!!!) locked Kim up and beat him.
Other alumni claimed the son of the school’s board of directors forced two female students to undress and drew nude paintings of them in 1975.
4.The school where the crimes took place is now closed.
Two months after Silenced came out on cinema, Gwangju City officially closed the school in November 2011.
At the time of closure, 22 students were attending the school, 57 stayed at the dorm while 55 received training. All of the students were then transferred out to other schools.
Silenced (2011) caused an uproar among the Korean public and eventually put pressure on politicians.
In October 2011, the South Korean parliament passed the Dogani Bill which eliminated the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children under 13 and disabled women.
Additionally, the bill increased the maximum penalty to life in prison.
5.Ji-young was a student activist in the 1980s and her past has inspired her writings.
In the novel, Ji-young portrays the male protagonist as someone who gives up his fight for justice and returns to his hometown in Seoul.
Ji-young’s past as a student activist during the 1980s inspired most of her writing style. She told The Korea Times in 2009 that if she wrote the novel at a younger age, she might have portrayed the male protagonist as a betrayer.
Since she was writing the book in her 40s, she portrayed him as a tortured human being.
In her home country, Ji-young was given a lot of ‘attention’ by the Korean press, and it wasnot for her writing.
Her personal life – she has been married three times and her children have different fathers – was apparently more shocking than the issues she highlighted in her works.