Gwangju Inhwa School
|Gwangju Inhwa School|
|Established||April 17, 1961|
Gwangju Inhwa School (Hangul: 광주인화학교) was a school for hearing-impaired students founded in 1961 and located in Gwangju, South Korea. According to a 2005 investigation, six teachers, including the principal, sexually molested or raped at least nine of their deaf-mute students between 2000 and 2003. A newly appointed teacher alerted human rights groups in 2005, for which he was subsequently fired from his job. Nine victims came forward, but more victims were believed to have concealed additional crimes in fear of repercussions or because of trauma. The police began an investigation four months later, only after former students talked to a national TV station. As the Gwangju city government and school board tossed the case back and forth, students and parents staged a sit-in for eight months outside their offices, calling for justice.
Of the six perpetrators, four received prison terms, while the other two were freed immediately because the statute of limitations for their crimes had expired. The local court sentenced the principal (son of the school founder) to a five-year term in prison, and four others received relatively heavy penalties. But the appellate court reduced the initial court ruling, giving probation and a ₩3 million fine for the principal and lighter verdicts to the rest. Among those jailed, two were released after less than a year in jail after their terms were suspended. Four of the six teachers were reinstated in the school. The case didn't draw much media attention when it went on trial in 2005, but at the time, human rights activists and victims criticized the lax legal action taken against the abusers.
The real-life events inspired bestselling novelist Gong Ji-young to write a book in 2009 which was later adapted into the 2011 film The Crucible (Hangul: 도가니; RR: Dogani; also known internationally as Silenced). Depicting both the sexual and physical violence against minors, and the court proceedings marred by corruption, bribery and Jeon-gwan ye-u, the film became a box office hit, drawing 4.7 million viewers, almost one-tenth of South Korea's population, and among its viewers were then-President Lee Myung-bak. Reacting to criticisms of leniency, Gwangju High Court judge Jang Jung-hee said, "The court could not sentence them to harsh punishments because the victims dropped the charges against the perpetrators. (A law that barred the prosecution of a child sex offender unless the victim made the complaint himself or herself, was only revised in 2010.)" Massive public outcry prompted the police to reopen and reinvestigate the case. One of the witnesses, 71-year-old ex-teacher Kim Yeong-il claimed that he was beaten and forced to resign in 1968 by the school's principal and his brother, the vice principal, after Kim discovered that two children were beaten and starved to death then secretly buried in 1964. Other alumni claimed that the son of the school's chairman of the board of directors forced two female students to undress and drew nude paintings of them in 1975, adding that the offender was currently teaching art at another school in the city.
Several of the teachers pleaded guilty to sexual molestation charges, including the 63-year-old former administrator, who in July 2012 was sentenced by the Gwangju District Court to 12 years in prison for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old student in April 2005.
Amid the nation's collective fury and mounting pressure on politicians, the South Korean parliament unanimously passed the "Dogani Bill" in October 2011, which eliminates the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children under 13 and disabled women; the bill also increases the maximum penalty to life in prison. However, many members of human rights organizations who have worked for a long time to promote the welfare of the disabled said the public backlash should lead to more profound, long-term solutions to tackle prevalent human rights violations against the disabled.
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- Kim, Sam (28 October 2011). "South Korea toughens laws against sex crimes". Cybercast News Service. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
- Kim, Tae-jong (5 October 2011). "Practical solutions absent in Dogani furor". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-07-22.