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Revenge K-drama leads to overseas movement to expose school violence

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Jan. 19, 2023 - 15:54

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A scene from A scene from "The Glory" (Netflix)

The global popularity and attention on Netflix thriller and suspense drama “The Glory” has resulted in an unforeseen development: Past bullying incidents of overseas celebrities have come to light as victims of school violence speak up by taking to social media.

“The Glory,” which was released on Netflix in December of last year, depicts the life of a school violence victim Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo), a revenge-driven female character who survived horrific abuse and seeks to exact her revenge after 17 years.

Although only the first eight episodes of the drama have been released, “The Glory” garnered international popularity, ranking the streaming platform on the most watched list in the first week of January.

After the drama attracted fans in Thailand, Thai audiences started talking about school violence with the hashtag “#The GloryThai” on social media spaces like Twitter.

Pawat Chittsawangdee, a Thai actor also known as Ohm Pawat, who has appeared in the Thai remake of the South Korean movie “Bungee Jumping,” is alleged to have bullied a student with autism while he was in middle school. He later admitted and apologized via his Twitter account.

Another Thai singer and actor Putthipong Assaratanakul, as known as Billkin, also apologized on his Facebook for his past comment about one of his friend’s social media feeds.

Sharing personal experiences on physical and verbal bullying in schools, audiences in Thailand left numerous comments online: “Discussion on school violence was sparked by K-drama,” “There are so many cases of ‘The Glory’ in Thailand,” “It may have been over in the past, but it cannot be over now."

According to an OTT content streaming ranking site Patrol, “The Glory” was most watched in South Korea followed by Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan.

But as “The Glory” is not the only K-drama focused on blood-soaked revenge surrounding school bullying, experts suggest that global audiences have been attracted to this enduring universal theme despite the nerve-wracking storyline and provocative scenes.

Latest soap operas that deal with stories of school bullying include Wavve’s “Weak Hero Class 1,” Tving’s “The King of Pigs,” Disney+’s “Revenge of Others” and Netflix’s “Juvenile Justice.”

“School bullying has become an almost omnipresent topic in K-dramas since this theme can easily draw sympathy from the audience. Especially with their setting in a school, where many learn and experience socialization for the first time, school bullying can easily portray a variety of social issues, mixed with negative aspects of capitalistic society as well as those who are neglected within the society,” Koo Jung-woo, a professor of sociology at Sungkyunkwan University, said.

In case of “The Glory,” the drama unearths a variety of social issues including inequality, social hierarchy, corruption and graft, as perpetrators collude with teachers, police and even parents of a victim, giving into the rich families’ wealth.

Others also thought producers began to take advantage of the flexibility of content on OTT, which does not need to tone down the level of violence, encouraging directors to tackle sensitive subjects like school bullying and include scenes which would not be allowed on terrestrial TV channels.

“The Glory” is rated 19 years and older as it contains abusive expressions and bloody action as part of Dong-eun’s personal revenge. Wavve’s “Weak Hero Class 1” and Tving’s “The King of Pigs” are also rated 19 and older.

“(With expansion of OTT platforms), audiences now have many different options in front of them (in terms of what to watch). But there has been an increasing number of female-led dramas, representing those who are socially weak or alienated, fighting against society. Combined with female narratives and scenes that attract audiences with something new, these dramas can be convincing,” pop culture critic Jung Deok-hyun said.