Socio-political contexts for the representation of deaf youth in contemporary South Korean film

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In Memento Mori (1999), the second film of the Whispering Corridors series, Si-Eun, a student at an all-girls school, has been partially deafened by a blow she receives from a violent male teacher. She is thus rendered imperfect in a society that looks down upon those who are not ‘normal’ and ‘assur[es] the non-disabled world that normal is right, to be desired and aspired to’ (Morris 1997: 28). When all the girls are subjected to an annual physical evaluation and mocked for being too short, too heavy or too flat-chested, one of them helps Si-Eun to fake the hearing test and pass as normal. This example defines some of the key social attributes which media representations of deafness campaign against, even though the media has done little to transmit more than condescending or stereotypical views of deafness: assumptions about normality and even perfection; a patriarchal, Confucian society which tolerates the abuse of women and the disabled; and a legal system which privileges the rich and powerful and habitually prevents the abused from finding justice.
The two contrasting films examined here strive to make a difference by revisiting actual events: GLove (2011), a sports drama film, recounts the determination of a baseball team from a high school for deaf children to be competitive in a national tournament, whereas Dogani (Crucible, 2011) is a traumatic fictionalised account of the sexual and physical abuse of young deaf students by members of staff at Gwangju Inhwa School for the hearing-impaired, the struggle of a new teacher to expose the scandal, and the corrupt legal system which imposed slight or no penalties on the perpetrators. GLove is an inspirational drama about character development, while Dogani prompted a political and legal uproar, leading to a reopening of the case and the passing of stronger legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren, deafness and Deaf culture in literature and multimodal representation
EditorsJohn Stephens, Vivian Yenika-Agbaw
Place of PublicationJackson
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


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