As it reaches over four million tickets sold, the movie Dogani (“SILENCED” in English) which was released on September 22 continues to gain popularity with the public. The dictionary definition of Dogani is ‘a scene of excitement.’ Because of the movie Dogani, the whole country is literally in Dogani. The title of the movie means absolute madness because the incidents that we could have never imagined happened in Gwangju. Throughout the movie, the public become aware of the incidents. Based on the novel written by Gong Ji-young, Dogani made the public are enraged by the incidents that occurred there. As a result, the chief of the National Police Agency(NPA) demanded the re-investigation.
The movie “The case of Itaewon Homicide” is based on the Itaewon hamburger restaurant murder case. After this incident happened, public criticism formed. However, because of inappropriate actions by the Korean Government and the SOFA agreement, a proper investigation was not held. Furthermore, after the prime suspect went back to the U.S., the incident was forgotten by the public. But after “The case of Itaewon Homicide” was released in 2009, public criticism formed again and a petition was made to the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutors Office. Recently, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutors Office declared that through close cooperation with the Justice Department in the U.S., they will repatriate and prosecute the prime suspect.
Many social problems happen around us, but not all of them get attention from the public. Some cases just get buried because they do not attract the public’s attention. Some cases cause temporary bursts of attention from the people but often this attention does not last long. These cases usually are just emotional reactions. So in this Cover Story we will introduce two typical cases that were made into movies to help make people aware of these incidents. Through these two cases, let us find out the dark truths behind the incidents and learn about a social phenomenon.
1) The outline of the Dogani incident
The Dogani case is about sexual violence towards disabled children that happened at Gwangju Inhwa School from 2000 to 2007. At the time, the principal, the administrative director as well as teachers and other faculty members, sexually assaulted disabled children. The principal even brought a speech-impaired child into his office and raped the child. One teacher could not stand it and reported this to the Gwangju Sexual Violence Counseling Center. After a police investigation, this incident was known to the public. On November 1, 2005, MBC’s PD Note broadcasted this case and the administrative director and two faculty members were arrested for sexual violence.
During the first trial, the principal was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment but after the re-trial, he was sentenced to two years’ and six months’ imprisonment with three years probation. So actually he did not have to serve his sentence. The administrative director was released and given probation and other faculties were sentenced to one or two years’ imprisonment after which they were allowed to go back to the school. Because of double jeopardy, it was hard to reinvestigate this case. But the movie Dogani made this case widely known to the public. Many people made a petition. As a result, on September 28 the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency directed a reinvestigation for protecting student’s safety and human rights.
2) Problems of Dogani incident
(1) The privileges for one’s former post
In this case, the principal and faculties were the offender and the children were the victims. Clearly there is an offender-victim relationship between them. However, laws that people should rely on denied the justice of victims. The reason is that there is the privileges for one’s former post that is an old custom in legal circles. The attorney who advocated the attackers took this case right after opening a private practice as a lawyer. But he worked at the Gwangju District Court and Gwangju High Court right before opening his private practice as a lawyer. It was a typical case of the privileges for one’s former post. Currently, the lawyer is in charge of the ‘Gwangju Arbitration Center’ in Gwangju District Court and operates his own private practice.
Long ago, preventing the privileges for one’s former post law was proposed but it was not put into practice. If the law had been executed, these shameless people would have never got off with just probation.
(2) The Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is a system which the right to punish and accuse vanishes as a certain amount of time passes. Now because of the expiration of the statute of limitations, it is impossible to take legal action. At that time, the statute of limitations of child sexual abuse was seven years. In this context many people insist that the statute of limitations of child sexual abuse should be abolished. So on October 28, the so-called ‘Dogani law’ that abolishes the statute of limitations of child sexual abuse cases was passed.
(3) An offense subject to complaint and difficulties of reinvestigation
The reason that offenders could get light sentences is that victims would often drop the charges. At that time, Child Sexual Abuse was an offense subject to complaint. Offenders went to the victim’s parents and gave them money. By paying the parents off, they reached a consensus so that a trial did not proceed. Also because of ’Principal of Punishment Nonretroactivity,’ it was hard for police to re-investigate.
(4) Social indifference
*Before the success of the movie Dogani
Although the school’s task force consistently brought up the issue to the courts, the prosecution, administrative agencies and educational institutions, they did not listen to the school’s task force. The attackers got light sentences or probation. So angry students threw eggs and flour at the principal and other faculties. Even when the novel ‘Dogani’ was released in 2009, related agencies were still indifferent and some teachers went back to the school. It is known that when the students were sexually assaulted between students, the educational institution was reported but no action was taken.
*Later actions after the success of the movie
After the success of the movie, public criticism increased. Considering this public criticism, police announced that they would create a special investigation team and reinvestigate it. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology took measures to shut down that school. In the National Assembly there was also an argument over the so-called ‘Dogani prevention law’ that strengthens punishment of cheating of social foundations.
*New pain for victims because of the success of the movie
Excessive attention and public opinion could open new wounds for the victims. The school’s task force said the victims should be refrained from excessive attention and interviews. Excessive attention and interviews could be another form of violence for the victims because they would they get unwanted attention
3) A Social phenomenon we can see through the ‘Dogani’ incident
Most cases related to the disabled or the disadvantaged do not get much attention. Only some of them are made into books or movies and known to the public. After an incident becomes widely known, many people get angry and insist that there should be no mercy for the criminal. They petition the government or have a signature-seeking campaign. But this passion vanishes very quickly. They do not get interested in the process of problem solving. As time passes many people forget the incident and get back to their normal lives. This is the so-called ‘Hot pot tendency, Nambi Geunseong.’ After some incidents happen, many people respond emotionally. However, their attention towards the issue does not last long. As time goes by, they forget the incident and lose all interest. To protect the disadvantaged through laws and institution, ‘Hot pot tendency, Nambi Geunseong’ is not enough.
The ‘Dogani’ incident is a warning about our indifference to problems of the disadvantaged. In order to prevent such cases, we need attention like continuously watching the process of problem solving not temporary attention like ‘Hot pot tendency, Nambi Geunseong.’
If you are suffering from sexual harassment or abuse like the childeren in Dogani case, do not hesitate to get a help and please visit The UOS Student Counseling Center to solve your problem!
Student Counseling Center not only operates individual counsel for personal matters such as academic, future, relationship, personalities and economical problems but also for equal rights for both sexes which deals with the sexual harassment and abuse. Counseling is available both on-line and in person, so students with any problems should not hesitate to get help! Visit its website, http://counsel.uos.ac.kr and give a call 02-2210-2303 (Student Counseling Center) and 02-2210-5492 (Counseling center for equal rights for both sexes), if you wish to get any help. The center open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekdays, and is located on the second floor 211 in Student Center.
The case of the Itaewon Homicide
1) The outline of the Itaewon Homicides
The murder case, remained unresolved for 14 years, is now rising to the surface once again. The public’s demand for reinvestigation of the case of the homicide has been heated since the news that Arthur Patterson, the murder suspect serving time in the U.S., was released. As the public’s attention and interest in the case of the Itaewon Homicide grows, many people wonder whether the Korean judicial authorities can charge Patterson with murder or not.
This incident happened on April 3, 1997, at Burger King in Itaewon. A HONGIK UNIVERSITY student, Cho Chung-phil (23), was stabbed to death on the bathroom floor. Korean-American Edward Lee and half-blooded Korean American Arthur Patterson, both of whom are the children of US soldiers, were accused of murder and both blamed each other as the culprit. With conflicting statements of the two, the investigation officials at first sentenced Edward Lee to life imprisonment, but lowered to 20 years in the Court of Appeals. Later on, the Seoul High Court finally declared Edward Lee was not guilty. As a result, Patterson became the main murder suspect. However, Patterson, who was sentenced to a year on the charge of possessing a weapon, was released due to a stay of execution of the sentence, and then hurriedly left Korea to go back to the U.S.
2) Related Problems and Controversy
(1) Differing views on the statute of limitations
In order to punish Patterson, the Korean judicial authorities have to verify his claims of murder through several trials. The statute of limitations on murder is 15 years, and is going to run out in this case within 6 months. Although the U.S. arrested Patterson and announced their intention to repatriate him to Korea, there are opposing views whether this incident can be solved within the expiration of the statute of limitations or not.
First, some argue that it is difficult to settle the case before the expiration of the statute of limitations. Civil Society Organization such as Power of the public changing the world and The National Campaign for Eradication of Crime by US troops in Korea said, “It is unlikely to resolve the matter within the statute of limitations considering the fact that the repatriation procedure in the US takes at least a year. Though many believe it would be easy enough to prove that Patterson is guilty, both the U.S. government and the U.S. judicial authorities have not expressed their stances yet for sure,” raising voice of concern. In addition, there is no sufficient evidence to prove the point that Patterson left for Korea in the purpose of avoiding receiving a criminal penalty.
On the other hand, the prosecution is quite positive about the case. This side believes that there is enough time to settle this incident. The prosecutor also reassures that there is a proof, a recording that contains Patterson’s confession. This recording would meet the requirement to stop the expiration of the statute of limitations. However, it remains to be seen if the prosecution will make up for its mistakes in the past.
(2) SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement in Korea)
SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement in Korea) was one of the factors that interfered with quick initial response and investigation at that time. Especially, Section 22, Sub-section 5 stipulates that Korea judicial authorities can exercise its judicial influence on USFK(US forces, Korea) who committed twelve main crimes such as murder and robbery only when he or she is prosecuted but not in the initial stage of investigation. This clause can be disadvantageous to Korea, since there is enough possibility to fabricate evidence and delay swift and prompt investigation. This unfair agreement was the biggest obstacle when prosecutors investigated the homicide in Itaewon since many of those related with the case were protected by SOFA, and thus authorities were unable to force them to participate in the process of investigation and court trials. A judge at a court of the first trial said, “When Korean court had to summon a witness, it had to get permission from the U.S. through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Prosecution. We wanted to summon as many witnesses as possible but most of them fell under the influence of SOFA.”
The condition of SOFA has been improved thanks to a second round of negotiations. Korean jurisdiction can exercise some amount of influence on US soldiers who committed crimes. However, still there are some conditions that are still unfair and adverse to Korea. And this demand to revise the law further is getting heated among the public due to a recent incident in which a junior high girl was raped by a US soldier at Dongducheon. People were enraged by the fact that this soldier was not taken into custody for questioning by the prosecution because he was under the protection of SOFA. Numerous similar crimes committed by US soldiers are increasing. Though the number of US soldiers in Korea is decreasing, the number of crimes has jumped from 258 cases last year to 316 cases already this year. There has been a gradual increase of crime since 2001. In order to restrict the increasing crime, it is necessary to revise this lopsided and unfair agreement. Expanding the criminal jurisdiction of Korea for US troops would ultimately reduce crimes by the US military forces in Korea.
3) What will happen with the Itaewon case?
It took as many as 14 years to shed light on an unjust incident that has been forgotten in the gloomy reality. The uncooperative and passive attitudes of the Korean government and the prosecution played a big role in delaying this case. In that, the Korean government and the prosecution have to show persistent responsibility and an enthusiastic attitude towards the case considering the fact that the statute of limitations will expire in less than 6 months. Moreover, both the Korean and the U.S. government have to quickly revise SOFA. Instead of protecting thier own citizens unconditionally, the U.S. has to appease the sorrow and resentment of the victim’s family by uncovering the truth and taking an active attitude to bring Arthur Patterson, a murder suspect, into the Korean court system.
The public and the mass media wield their power to change social corruption and turmoil as well as the oppression of the poor and minorities. When these two movies Dogani and the murder in Itaewon were released, people instantly expressed their anger at the unfair situations by signing their names to the petition and demanding a thorough reinvestigation of both incidents by organizing internet websites. As a result, Gwangju Inhwa School is going to be abolished and a law which protects the rights of the handicapped has been established. In addition the suspect of a murder incident which has been largely forgotten about for 14 year is about to be prosecuted by the law.
Though these movies and the mass media have cherished positive changes, we do not know for sure whether people’s current attention and efforts can last long enough to address fundamental changes. As the movie Dogani’s popularity has been dispatched, people’s anger with the incident has cooled down gradually at the same time. The same applies to the murder in Itaewon. This movie initially caused quite an uproar from people but their attention and enthusiasm died quickly. As we have mentioned previously, Koreans have a tendency to warm up and cool down quickly regarding a certain incident like a hot pot gradually cooling down, the aforementioned Hot pot tendency, Nambi Geunseong.
However, people have to come up with concrete solutions and measures to solve these problems before their enthusiasm and the attention regarding the incidents wane. Though the popularity of the movies Dogani and the murder in Itaewon has faded, let us hope for changes that these movies may bring in the near future.