Movies based on real life stories get people talking. It’s not very often though that those same movies get a government to rethink its laws. But that’s exactly what happened in South Korea after a movie based on the true story of a sexual abuse scandal at a school for the deaf was released last month.
The movie, Do-ga-ni (The Crucible), takes a look at a teacher who starts working at a school in the southwestern city of Gwangju only to find out that the children are being physically and sexually abused by their teachers. The former teacher, Kim Yeong-il, who inspired the character in the movie, claims that two students were abused to death and secretly buried 50 years ago.
"In October 1964 when I worked at the school, the then vice principal starved an about seven-year-old orphan boy, who was raised at the school, for a long time and beat him to death," Kim said in an interview with the Korea Times.
Kim also claims that six months later a six-year-old girl died after being thrown off a building by a female caretaker. In the same article, Kim said he reported these incidences to the police, but no bodies were found. He also claims that after reporting the incident he was beaten by the principal and vice principal of the school. He left the school in 1968.
The movie, according to the state-funded Korean Film Council, has drawn 4.5 million viewers, almost one-tenth of South Korea’s population and has touched a nerve with those in the country who feel the legal system is too soft on sex offenders.
But in a near unanimous vote (207-0 vote, with one lawmaker abstaining), South Korea’s parliament approved a tougher law against sex crimes that eliminates the statute of limitations or the amount of time that a case can be brought to trial for crimes against children under 13 and disabled women. They’ve also increased the maximum penalty for those found guilty to life in prison.
In a report from the Associated Press, Rep. Lee Choon-suak from the Democratic Party said the broad support shows how angry people have become toward child sex offenders, especially after the release of The Crucible.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is expected to sign the bill into effect within a couple of weeks.
The movie, which was renamed Silenced in the States, is showing now in limited release. Watch the trailer for the movie here.