Dong-hyuk’s ‘Silenced’ (2011): Mute Resistance in The Age of New Media


 Dong-hyuk’s ‘Silenced’ (2011): Mute Resistance in The Age of New Media

Hwang Dong-Hyuk’s Silenced is based on Kong Ji-Young’s novel  ‘Dokani’ (2009), which was  inspired by a true story. Silenced is telling us about a young appointed teacher from Seoul, Kang In-ho, taking his first job in a school for hearing-impaired children in Mujin city. Kang needs the job to afford his daughter‘s surgery. In fact, he was obliged to take his first job faraway from his family. Kang accidently met Yoo-Jin on his way to school in a repairing car garage. Yoo-Jin drived him to his appointed school, because his car broke down on the way. Kang remarked, upon his arrival to the school, traces of sadness in the kids’ faces. This strangeness eventually pushed him to investigate the matter and read their school profiles; social and physical difficulties are part of the kids’ lives. He asked another teacher in his school, Yeon Doen, about it who said: ‘Boys always make strange sounds when they are bored’. But Kang was not satisfied with his colleague’s answer; he always felt something strange was going on in that school.

Kang realised, few days after his arrival, that the kids have endured physical violence and severe sexual abuse from the school’s administrator and director; identical twins. The kids were beaten to death when they refused to obey their teacher, administrator and director’s devlish demands. The head-master and his administrator exploited the kids’ deafness; they could not share their sufferings with others. Kang tried to become closer with the disabled children and was shocked by what he heard. He informed Yoo-Jin of the situation who was actually an employee at the Mujin Human Rights Center. They spoke to the kids and decided to inform both the police and Human Rights Center about the head-master`s and assistant’s actions. Unfortunately, they found out that the police were paid to cover the headmaster’s crimes and thus did not take their complaints seriously.

Now, Kang is lost between two choices; whether he gives priority to the disbaled children or his sick daugther. In other words, should he help the kids and forget about his daughter ? Or should he turn a blind eye to the crimes and care only about his own ? This example embodies the conflict between the personal and collective family of an individual; being part of the same family and society. In the beginning, Kang’s mother rejected the fact that her son pays much attention to other kids and neglects his daughter, but she later changed her mind as soon as she realised how serious the kids’ sufferings  had been.

Kang and Yoo-Jin tried all the possibilities to stop the head-master and director from committing more of the crimes, but they could not find anybody to listen to their complaints. Therefore, they both turned to the tools offered by the new media and filmed the kids’ witness. The kids’ witness was sent to journalists and media channels. In few days, YTN TV channel showed interest in covering the kids’ stories. This interview was broadcasted and stimulated a wide reaction from the society. Clearly, the role of the new media and citizen journalism is very crucial.


Citizen journalism is usually defined as journalism done by non-journalists. Or «When the people formerly know the audience and employ the press tools in their position to inform one’s another». 1 For instance, Kang and Yoo-Jin knew their audience and made the kids’ story known, due basically to human rights activits’ willingness and also the language of the new media. The film director may want to tell us that there is no excuse for not resisting injustice in the age of the new media. In other words, resistance becomes easier and more effective.

The police inspector in Mujin used to cover the school’s administrators crimes. Now it is not anymore possible, due particularly to the embarrasing situation the new media has put the police inspector and his compatriots in. The police agent could not hide the head-master’s crimes after the broadcasting of this interview. He caught the head-master and asked him to keep silent. Clearly, «Every politician should not only be concious of bloggers, but should be afraid of bloggers». Citizen journalism compliments formal journalism and gives plenty of possibilities to human rights activists. It is not anymore allowed for minorities to keep silent on the crimes of others. For instance, the film tells us about these disabled children who were able to make their story known to the world.

The kids sued the head master and his brother. The kids’ lawyer provided all the cut proofs to put them in jail. Unfortunately, the judge had another opinion and surprised everybody, including the film viewers, in releasing them out. The headmaster’s wife and secretary, Park Hye-Jin, addressed the kids’ parents to buy their forgiveness, which she easily got, due to the parents’ poverty. For this reason, Min Su could not stop crying, because they did not apologize to him, but to his grandparents « They did not apologize neither to me nor to my brother». This implicates the mentality of the new generation; independence from the family. Min Su could not forgive nor forget, because his brother died in a train accident near to Mr. Pak’s house after he abused him sexually. «Under great pain and can’t really walk» said Min Su. He took revenge from Mr. Pak and died in a tragic train accident.

The kids demonstrated against this injustice. They sought even to voice and make their concerns known to the society. The police accused the disabled community of taking over the public space. They were sending vocal warnings which were not heard and then they attacked. What is more, people were watching the disabled community fighting this injustice alone and they did not support them. This scene signifies that society left the disabled community to face their corrupt system. Thus, it is  difficult to envision any possible changes when minorities are not supposrted. This is one of the themes of the film. It shows that demonstrations did not work and Mr. Kang tried to change the whole system, but he could not do it alone. Change pre-requisites the cooperation of all parts of the same society.

  Silenced explores the role of the new media. It is a strong arm in the hand of minorities and activists. For instance, the kids’ story was not known even in their city, where the new media made it known nationally and later cinema took it internationally. In fact, such crimes are taking place in different places in the world and now thanks to the new media, we know about them. Concisely, the new media provides activists with huge opportunities to unite and exchange information and work towards a better future.

Published 24 Dec 2012

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