In September of 2017, a Facebook post of some messages and a picture of a girl covered in blood went viral and shook the nation.
Student: What did you do?
Attacker: I hit a kid. They say it’s attempted murder.
[Photo of victim]
Attacker: Is it too much?
Student: You did that?
Student: Was it just you two?
Student: Did you hit her alone? You’re a real psycho ㅋㅋ Did you both do it? Answer me. Answer me you b*tch. Are you really sending that to me and asking me if that’s too much? Wow. Until when are you going to keep doing that ㅋㅋ I’m getting really sick of you. You’ve already done enough, you should control yourself now.
Attacker: Sorry. I’ll act properly now.
Student: Was it just you two?
The post, and a police investigation that followed, revealed there has been a terrible bullying incident in Busan, Korea and the victim endured an hour and 40 minutes of getting physically assaulted by five other girls with a chair, a metal pipe, soju bottles and lit cigarettes. Koreans became outraged by this incident, especially because the involved students turned out to be middle school students.
When the footage from a surveillance camera that captured the five attackers taking turns to assault the victim was released on the news, it truly shocked the nation. Only when a woman passing by discovered the unconscious victim left beaten and bloody and called the police, the victim was taken to be immediately hospitalized.
While the major news channels in Korea began covering this story, the victim’s mother came forward and shared on Facebook some updates on her daughter’s condition.
My daughter was beaten up a second time and her face is now a mess. They say the reason was because they wanted revenge for the last time we reported them.
Two months ago, a boy she knew contacted her. He was [one of the attacker’s] boyfriend. She was beaten up for picking up his call, and now she was beaten up for reporting the first attack.
Her forehead is bloated like there’s silicon in it. I was going to dismiss the previous incident, being a parent myself, but I don’t think this is right.
Reporters, please don’t write ridiculous things, I have a lot of evidence. I have an audio recording too, so don’t say she wasn’t injured too badly. My baby can’t even have porridge…
As a parent, I don’t like revealing everything, but why do you think I am? I just hope my daughter’s misfortune can help other kids from suffering the same fate.
— Victim’s Mother, Han Joo Yeon
When the investigation began, Koreans realized that with the attackers being minor, the Juvenile Act will have them tried with the juvenile court which focuses on rehabilitation rather than sole punishment. A nationwide Blue House petition was signed by over 290,000 citizens who wanted to shut down the act that “encourages adolescents to take advantage of such protection and abuse the law to commit even more brutal acts of crime.”
In fact, as the investigation progressed, one of the attackers identified as a thirteen year old and impossible to put on the stand for trial. Rage grew among Koreans as this young teen got away with her involvement in this brutal attack.
Four of five the girls who were old enough to be tried were taken into custody for the horrific attack. A total of three girls were decided to be tried as adults. Jeong Yu Mi, one of the main attackers responsible for the attack, pleaded guilty in the juvenile trial but was detained because the chief prosecuting attorney believed, “there is a risk of her fleeing.” Because detainment of teens has been unprecedented, this received a lot of public attention. The prosecution office stated, “Jeong Yu Mi’s crimes are beyond what the law and the community can accept.”
In fact, two of the five attackers had turned themselves in on the same night of the attack, to which Koreans heavily criticized as being an easy way out for lightening their possible punishment levels.
During the following weeks, as investigation continued, the parental parties of both the victim and the attackers spoke up and shared their opinions on this incident. The victim’s mother continued to fight against the Juvenile Act and actively promoted online for justice for her daughter. Father of Jeong Yu Mi also came forward and said he and his daughter is responsible.
It’s a tough time for me but I’m mustering up the courage to speak. After calming my heart down yesterday I saw the video of the attack and saw that it was more violent than an adult crime, so my heart is still trembling and my legs are weak… I promise we will pay the price for the unforgivable crime.
— Jeong Yu Mi’s father
By February 1, 2018, the court decided to send the case to the juvenile court. The judge claimed, “The case of the three attackers will be sent to the Busan Juvenile Court to be decided.”
Juveniles are physically and mentally immature and do not have the same ability to perceive as do adults. The court will not try these teens under the same standards for adults. As the girls show guilt and reflection, we must acknowledge there is room for change with educational rehabilitation.
— Judge Lim Kwang Ho
Once sent over to juvenile court, the three attackers faced Judge Chun Jong Ho, a well-known juvenile judge for his strict ruling and passion for behavioral correction for teens. Within a week of the case being transferred, the juvenile court sentenced the attackers to serve time in a juvenile hall. Two main attackers received two years, while the third attacker received a few months.
Judge Chun Jong Ho, along with the court and the prosecution office, received a tremendous amount of hate and criticism from Koreans who believed the case was ultimately handled too leniently.
The same week, Judge Chun Jong Ho uploaded a picture of himself with the victim, explaining how she is recovering from the incident. According to the judge, the victim herself also had to face a court trial for some of the things she had done wrong prior to the bullying incident.
○ “판사님 딸 하자.”전 국민을 분노에 빠뜨렸던 ‘부산 여중생 폭행사건’. 작년 9월에 발생한 이후 아직도 사건 처리가 완전히 종결되지 않았다. 그 와중에 피해자 H를 오늘 법정에서 만났다. H는 폭행 사건…
The first thing I noticed about her walking into court was her hair cut short to treat her wounds. She seemed to be growing the hair back out, but because it was still short, she looked like a boy and it broke my heart. The wounds from the beating have healed. The scars on her head were covered with her hair and not visible.
When I asked her about how she has been since the incident, she answered that she is well and staying home. I asked her about school and she said she’s becoming a freshman in spring…
I had one of the girls, C, who was not detained, come to the court. I heard before the court hearing that the victim and C have somewhat made up. So I had C wait outside the court. When C walked in, the victim didn’t seem affected.
I had C shout out “I’m sorry, please forgive me” ten times in front of the victim…
C began crying as she shouted her apologize and asked for forgiveness. After the ten times, she told the victim she is sorry for not understanding her and for hitting her.
I asked the victim if the two had really made up. The victim started crying and explained, “Yes. C apologized to me multiple times on Facebook. She seemed sincerely sorry and to be reflecting on what she did wrong, so I decided to forgive her.”
I asked the victim’s mother if she wanted to say anything to C. The mother said she had nothing to say. It seemed like because her daughter had forgiven C, she was also able to control her anger.
— Judge Chun Jong Ho
The judge also revealed a letter he received from the victim. In this long, completely heartbreaking, but also optimistic letter, the victim shared how she has been dealing with her past and working to move past the incident.
Dear Judge Chun Jong Ho,
Hi, this is (name)… I wanted to print this and give it to you in person, but something went wrong with my computer and I couldn’t. So here it is! I wrote this on the day when I met you.
Um… I saw the picture you posted on Facebook and I read what you wrote. I’m so touched, thank you so much.
I don’t think I should have been able to forgive C, but I began thinking about the little memories we shared. It broke my heart. I didn’t want C to get on her knees. When she started crying and apologizing, I actually felt grateful. I know it must have made her so ashamed to kneel in front of a friend, so I felt sorry and appreciated her gesture.
I cried so much up to this point that I didn’t think I could cry any more. Yet when C got on her knees, I began to tear up again. When you talked about the day, I got really emotional. I feel like I’m doing better, laughing and moving on, but whenever I hear the events of that day, I start to cry. I don’t care if C meant her apology or not. I’m going to accept it. I believe C also must have gone through a lot and I’m sorry and grateful.
When you told me that I’m like a daughter to you, I was really happy to hear that. I am forever grateful to you. When you asked me whom I hated the most for what happened, I actually wanted to say myself but because my mom was in the back listening to me, I didn’t want to break her heart. So here’s my honest answer… Of the girls who attacked me, I actually hate myself the most… And I know I’ve hurt some people too, when I wasn’t the victim. I feel horrible and I am sorry. I know regret doesn’t change anything, but I will reflect on the things I have done wrong for the rest of my life. I will consider the recent incident my punishment for everything I have done wrong in the past.
I’m actually quite sad about my hair, but I’m going to keep growing out. I think the educational sessions I heard on January 16, 17, and 18th really helped me. I really paid attention and took notes. I also read your book, Judge Chun. It was really moving and it gave me another chance to look back on the things I have done wrong. I’d love to read it again when I have the time.
I’m going to be a good girl from now on, so I don’t think I’ll ever see you again but I would love to meet you from time to time. Until I’m all grown up, or even after I’m an adult, I would like to keep in touch with you.
Ever since I was young, I wanted to become a singer. I liked to sing and I liked the idea that I could express how I feel with singing. It looked great to me that singers can touch and inspire people with their voices. I know it’s not going to be easy to become a singer, but I don’t want to give up without putting up a fight first. On the other hand… if I become a singer, I will be too busy and I won’t be able to take care of my mom. So maybe I’ll just keep the dream to myself. I have already put my mom through so much. I haven’t been able to do anything for her… so I’d like to live my life for her.
I don’t have to, but I want to. I learned that a dream should be something that makes you happy and makes your blood rush with so much passion. In that case, I think my dream is to make my mom happy and to see her stop crying. From now on, I will wake up each morning and set a goal. I will start off the day with a goal and the motivation to make that goal happen. No matter how hard, I’m going to overcome everything. I can do it.
I will love my family more than I love my friends. At the end of it all, it is family who will stick by my side… I will live thinking I have been blessed, I deserve to be respected, and that I am happy. Wouldn’t that make my days better?
People ask me who is the most important person. I often failed to answer that question right away. I am going to live to the fullest so that I can answer it with confidence. It is going to be me. I’m going to be the happiest person. I’m going to be the best. I’m going to do whatever I want, and that is to work hard and become someone like you, Judge Chun…
I start school again in March. I’m going to try my best in school too. I’m starting to look forward to starting freshman yearm actually…
— The Victim
In May, for Korean “Parent’s Day”, the victim visited Judge Chun Jong Ho to give him flowers and took another picture with him. She has visibly longer hair in this picture.
She said she’s doing great in school and it made me feel so relieved.
— Judge Chun Jong Ho
Koreans continue to remain furious at the current juvenile law system and send encouragement and support for the victim and her family through the victim’s mother’s Facebook.