Saturday, November 28, 2020

KBS Drama Special 2020: To My Assailant/The Teacher


This was an uncomfortable watch, if I am to be honest, and knowing KBS DS, the ending could swing in any direction. I was so glad it went that way.
This is the episode about the school bullying and the ugly truth that the bullies usually get with their lives, unbothered, making no amends for their past crimes. They just close it off with the high school diploma and pretend it was someone else. 

And yes, people grow, mature and learn from their mistakes. However, here the bullies do not realize that their actions ruin other people's lives. They don't realize they have done something wrong because they were never held responsible for the bad things. And if no one ever pointed what kind of wrong you have done, you can't differentiate between good and bad and improve from there.

Song Jinwu works as a teacher in the highschool that boasts the slogan that this is the place where no one is left alone. The truth is, as we can all guess, is something completely opposite. Every student here is left with their own problems and the school does nothing to extend a helping hand. This leads to the Park Heejin to be the bully of the century. She feels the immunity because of who she is, the granddaughter of the Principal and she exerts much power not only over her classmates but also over the teachers.

One day she blackmails distressed Jinwu, whose life collapsed when he learned that the new temp teacher at school is his high school bully - Yu Seongpil. He's trying to recuperate from this sudden blow to his still vulnerable mental state, when Heejin says she can make Seongpil be fired, if only Jinwu "does his job as a homeroom teacher". What she meant becomes crystal clear when she continues to bully students using other students - a crafty way of having her hands clean.

And Jinwu, after a moment of turmoil, fueled by Seongpil's tirade about "teachers' duty" to protect the students, goes on a mission to save Lee Eunseo, who is relentlessly bullied and even pushed to filling the drop-out form. This moment was especially painful to watch - we see a guy who in high school physically abused his classmate, who recorded the acts of violence against him, who at the first moment of discord jumped to the opportunity presented by Heejin to close the eye on her bullying behavior. And the very same guy admitting that after Jinwu transferred, he found his "replacement", so the abuse was continued.

At first Jinwu's efforts to help go ignored. Eunseo is ready to drop out, no other student thinks he's reliable enough to trust him and confide in him regarding the bullying. His own cycle of violence seems to be repeated - in high school he also made a report about the abuse but not only no other student wanted to go against Seongpil, teachers ignored it as well, even when they witnessed the beatings. Determined to make this his revenge on Seongpil, he tries his best to help Eunseo, who finally accepts his help and musters up the courage to be a witness. Jinwu shows the video of him getting abused to the whole class and also apologizes for not making the girls feel safe enough to tell him about the happenings at school. And this is cathartic to him - he faces his trauma and his abuser. His revenge is to make sure no other students' cries for help will ever go unnoticed. And he receives the support of every person in the class. The powerful moment in this episode was at the very end, when he is summoned to the office and yet makes sure to announce he has witnesses, not one, not only Eunseo who is thought to be unreliable and a rebel, but a dozen of other names. And this sends the teacher panicking because one voice can be ignored but not as many as this - the entire class left the room and walked in silence behind Jinwu in a sign of solidarity.

I liked how it ended, I liked how Jinwu found enough courage inside to fight not for himself but for the bullied students and through that he started to cope with the fear of the past and the towering shadow of his tormentor. 
And also - I really liked the music here.