Korean Title: Dogani
Author: Gong Ji Young
292 pages | 223*152mm
Important! Please read before you order!
>>>This book is
written in Korean.
About This Book
Celebrated author Gong Ji-young has released a new novel, "The Crucible"
whose title was taken from Arthur Miller's eponymous play, based on the
real events leading up to "witch trials" in the small puritan town of
Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
Her new novel, which was first posted on Daum, the Internet portal site,
from the end of last year for six months, also deals with an actual
incident that happened at Gwangju Inhwa School, a special school for
deaf and dumb students, in which educational workers, including the
school principal, continuously sexually abused their disabled students
Set in Mujin, a fictional historical city where progressive and
conservative values are in conflict, the book revolves around a school
for deaf children who fall prey to collective sexual violence.
The city frequently blanketed with fog is portrayed as a region that was
once the Mecca of the democracy movement, but is now stricken with
reckless nightlife and corruption.
Kang In-ho, a teacher, moves into the city after landing a job at the
school with the help of his wife's friend, leaving his family °™ his wife
and daughter °™ behind in Seoul.
He meets Seo Yu-jin, his university senior now living in Mujin, who
helps him settle down and adapt himself to the new environment.
On his first day at the new school, he encounters a weird and doubtful
accident in which a boy from the school is killed in a train accident,
and hears about a girl who jumps off a cliff to her death nearby the
The principal, a son of the founder, asks him to give money in return
for giving him a job under the name of the "school development fund,"
and Kang has to accept this demand because he doesn't have a job after
quitting teaching several years ago and failing in business.
The principal is an influential figure respected by the community and
seems to be a devout Christian with a solid network of various kinds of
people. The school is funded with around 4 billion won every year from
the educational authorities for its specialty in educating handicapped
However, before long Kang feels there is something nasty and wrong at
the school, and suddenly realizes what is going on there.
He finds out that students in his classroom °™ both girls and boys °™have
been sexually assaulted and abused by the principal, an administrative
head and a dormitory superintendent.
Kang and Seo, who works at the human rights center in the community
center, decide to divulge the incidents to the public. But their efforts
to bring about justice end in disaster as the regional community and the
established power moguls try to conceal the facts.
Police are swayed by the influential figures in the community; a doctor
testifies in their favor; a lawyer attacks Kang's past wrongdoings in
which he was a member of a teacher's union and had an affair with a
former pupil who later committed suicide. Worse, most of the victims'
parents agree to cover up the case in exchange for money because they
In the end, the three accused are sentenced to probation and are set
free to return to the school.
Meanwhile, Kang stands at a crossroads in which his individual
conscience is tarnished by the social tyranny represented by a
power-centered hegemony and his desire to keep his family safe while
salvaging his reputation from past misdemeanors.
Although they don't win the trial, they decide to continue to fight. But
Kang whose past misfortunes were disclosed during the trial sees them
spread through the Internet and loses his willingness to fight against
social evil. One night, Kang leaves the city out of frustration.
The novel is also an interesting parallel with Miller's play in that
Kang, comparable to John Proctor, wanted to keep his distance from the
incident. At first, Kang doesn't want to have a part of it regardless of
whether it's good or bad. But when his students are harassed and abused
by the school authorities, he is forced to play his part.
Through the trial, Kang's affair with his former student is revealed
just as Proctor confessed his affair with Abigail and tries to cleanse
himself of his sins in the play.
The author displays the struggles within each of our own hearts through
the male protagonist and at the same time, she shows when something
wrong happens, people don't want to be involved.
There is also another theme about the frantic hysteria of the mob
represented by the school authorities, the religious community, and also
the residents. Christians are described as those who blindly advocate on
behalf of their colleagues (the accused) and even manipulate and distort
the truth to the citizens.
The author apparently blames complex and comprehensive social ills on
those who have power and money, and trample on the less fortunate.
The author said that at first, she tried to deal with double-faced and
invisible violence in this backward small city but as she kept writing,
she felt as if the whole nation became Mujin.
One of the noteworthy factors in the novel is Gong's portrayal of a male
protagonist who gives up his fight for justice and returns to Seoul, and
Seo, his colleague who understands him.
The 45-year-old writer was a student activist in the 1980s and noted
that if she wrote the novel at a younger age, she might have portrayed
him as a betrayer, but she embraced Kang as a tortured human being.
"Now I think that such a layman is part of the character of people who
make history together in our society," she said. "Power without a rein
is violence. Paying attention to this silent cartel is the last hope of
our society," she added.
To write the novel, she visited the school more than 10 times and
interviewed the relevant people, including victims.
She recalled the moment when she was strongly motivated to write the
case into a fictional story. She was struck by a phrase in a newspaper
article, saying "At the moment when the ruling was handed down on the
accused, the court room was filled with screams and cries of the
students with hearing disabilities."
Gong was a best-selling author in the 1990s through her candid and
sensible writing style in such novels as "Go It Alone Like the
Rhinoceros Horn," and "Mackerel."
--Chung Ah-young (www.Koreatimes.co.kr)
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