SEOUL - The school bullying scenes depicted in Netflix’s blood-soaking revenge drama The Glory have evoked memories of a horrific case of school violence that happened 17 years ago.
The no-holds-barred depictions of abuse in the drama reminded many viewers of the incident dubbed “hair curler bullying” that took place at a girls’ middle school in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province, in May 2006.
In the drama, Park Yeon-jin, the main bully in her senior year of high school, burns Moon Dong-eun’s body with a hair curler in the school gym as revenge for Moon’s decision to report her to the police for school violence.
The victim reaches out to her teacher and police for help, but the perpetrators - all of whom are rich and torment the underprivileged classmate Moon - get away scot-free without being disciplined for their actions. Later, the perpetuating violence leads Moon to drop out of school and give up her dreams of becoming an architect.
While the drama was criticised for portraying scenes that were too violent to watch, it has also earned rave reviews for shedding light on the real-life peer-on-peer abuse that goes on in Korea.
In 2006, three ninth-grade students bullied their classmate for 20 days, asking the victim for money. On the days the demands were not met, they would knock the victim around using a baseball bat, scratch the victim’s chest with a barrette, physically abuse the victim with their fists and feet and even burn the victim’s arm using a curling wand in the classroom. The physical abuse also resulted in a protruded tail bone, leading to a six-week hospitalisation.
The victim said in an interview with local media outlet Newsis at that time that she had no time for her wounds to heal because the bullies would burn her body to check the temperature of the hair curler every few days. The victim added that the perpetrators even peeled her scabs using their nails as a punishment.
Unlike the drama, however, the Cheongju District Court issued an arrest warrant against one of the perpetrators, citing brutality and gravity of the incident. It was reported that the student had initially threatened the victim not to expose her name, but she later admitted her abusive actions during the investigation.
The school and teachers were also dealt with under administrative measures for poorly handling school violence, according to reports.
Although the juvenile bullies in the drama were not punished, legal minors aged 14 and up can be punished by criminal law in South Korea.
The act of using heat-styling tools, including a hair curler, is a crime categorised under special injury. Special injury refers to an unlawful attack by injuring a person using dangerous objects.
The Glory revolves around the revenge-driven female character who survived horrifying abuse in high school. The Netflix series is rated 19 years and older for containing abusive language and actions.
The first eight episodes were released on the streaming platform on Dec 30. The drama will return with part two in March. THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK