Jee-young Gong, “Cruel depiction of sexual violence was really necessary”

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an interview article of Jee-young Gong, the author of novel ‘Dogani’ on which the movie ‘Dogani’ made and hits big time now in Korea, appeared in a daily newspaper ‘Hankyoreh’  on September 28, 2011. As such, the original author of the article and ‘Hankyoreh’ can claim all rights and this post will be scrapped under their request. The original article (in Korean) can be located at the link in the bottom.

Jee-young Gong (48), the author of novel <Dogani> on which the movie <Dogani> was made said, “I really wanted to defend the disabled students’ human rights that were dumped like trash.” Ms. Gong, in an interview with <Hankyoreh> on September 28, talked about reasons why she decided and the steps she took to write novel <Dogani> in detail.

After seeing the news on Inhwa School story for the first time, Ms. Gong’s decision to write a novel about it started from an article appeared in <Hankyoreh>. “At that time, I saw a <Hankyoreh> article. One phrase reads ‘the moment offenders set free by probation, the court howled with muted outcries of hearing-impaired people.’ What on earth has happened there to make them cry so desperate? After finding out the real story, I got appalled.”

Ms. Gong said “to feel a sense of duty” after seeing student victims. “I felt so bad about those kids. I pledged for those kids; I would write a well-read story about this incident to let people know.”

After deciding to write a story, discussions with former judges made her all the more dedicated. “I asked those who just retired from their judge benches how on earth this kind of ruling could be possible. What I got in return was this. ‘Do you know how hard they struggle to be a chief judge? Do you think they can deliver a decision that will brand themselves to their seniors to protect the rights of the mute?’ At this, I thought ‘the human rights of disabled people got trashed. I will pick up this trashed human rights and speak out loud’.”

Regarding the big success of novel <Dogani>, Ms. Gong said “I never expected that. I thought we were living in a society where we could not afford to look after others’ pains. But I guess it changed. I guess inner desires we should not be indifferent to others’ misfortunes have revived. It might have come again in this Myung-bak Lee’s government where they keep producing dropouts by making competition more pressing.”

In both novel and movie, sexual violences kids went through were depicted in great detail even to a cruel level. This led to disputes whether such detailed depiction was really necessary but Ms. Gong claimed “they were really necessary.” She added, “if we cut those parts out, would people know how gruesome they were? We should know how gruesome those incidents were to fully realize how gruesome those court rulings were.”

Ms. Gong said the popularity the novel and movie has attracted should not stop there; rather, she wants it to push forward efforts to change related laws. This is a remark considering failed efforts to revise Social Welfare Business Law in 2007. At that time, the government submitted a revision to National Assembly aiming at tightening up external supervision against private school foundations granted to establish social welfare business entities but foundered due to fierce opposition from Grand National Party.

“I feel furious. I hope to push forward the revision now in a time where the situation of public opinion is much favorable. We cannot simply get angry all the while until a time only god knows.”

Ms. Gong expressed her frustration against mainstream media also. “Nowadays, I only watch news that circulate in SNS. Media is totally broken. If mainstream media dug the Inhwa School incident at that time, this tragedy could not have come this far.”

Finally, Ms. Gong hoped “this incident to urge power figures to break up the cartel of silence and wake up against social injustice.”

Useful link



  1. The time and energy you invested to translate this article, as well as “Teachers sexually violated disabled students … Inhwa School story,” deserve a thank you.

    This heart-wrenching, tragic story should not be overlooked due to a language barrier. I find the story powerfully motivating to help spread awareness about open dialogue about sexual assault issues.

    Thank You. I have shared your translations with friends who also are here in Korea with me.

    1. As you said, the story is really heart-wrenching and tragic. However, Jee-young Gong recently said in a press interview the description in her novel ‘Dogani’ was about 1/3 of what really happened there. I really hope you can read her novel at some time to really appreciate the whole thing. For instance, in her novel, she describes how dead quite the school is to someone who can hear. And even during the time sexual violence was actually going on in late afternoon after all teachers who can hear went back home, students who stayed in dormitory or wandered around school could not notice it since they were all hearing-impaired. Some of the victims were intellectually impaired as well and those teachers sometimes gave them things to eat to lure them. Even when some teachers noticed something unusual, they tried not to get involved to save their jobs. That’s how those committed those crimes were able to continue over such a long time without being noticed.

      1. I hope I can read the book as well. I am about an intermediate level Korean speaker/reader. I am afraid to attempt to tackle that book 😦 I wish it was translated to English.

        Thank you for your reply.

  2. Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time 🙂

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