3 Teenage Woundings To Ponder From “Juvenile Justice”

Juvenile Justice is a Korean series that takes you on a journey to various stories of teenage crimes and addressing complex cases through punishment according to juvenile court.

It exclusively aired on Netflix on February 25th with 10 episodes, starring Kim Hye-soo, Kim Moo-yeol, Lee Sung-min, and Lee Jung-eun.

Just like Move To Heaven (2021) and Deserter Pursuit (2021), this year’s Juvenile Justice is one of the rare Korean dramas that explore humanity’s delicate facets of life and help raise public awareness on mental health that is often taboo.

Here’s an insight on three kinds of teenage woundings that likely influenced delinquent behavior as portrayed in the series:

1. Parental neglect

Juvenile Justice is an eye-opening experience that bravely narrates the struggles of teenagers at home and reasons why some commit crimes as young as they are.

Miss O, the youth counselor in the drama, manages a recovery home for female teens and shared that most kids who get sent to them don’t have a good family background. “The start of most misconduct is the family,” she said.

Parental neglect is one of the painful realities that leads a child to feelings of not being wanted as a person. It is not foreign to many that parents play a big role in the emotional and moral development of the child. So when a child is deprived of affection and attention from parents, feelings of insecurity grows that pushes one to look for meaning in the wrong places, such as unfavorable environment.

There are many forms of parental neglect. It can be giving priorities in other things than the child’s emotional needs. “You’re not an instructor. You’re a mother,” Judge Eunseok reminded the counselor’s neglected duties as a mother to her daughters.

“She wasn’t sick. She lied so she could abandon me,” a bully female teen shared her sentiment about her mother who abandoned her. Even in tough times, some absentee parents remain detached. Judge Eunseok said, “The girl committed such an unspeakable, unforgivable crime, but her parents didn’t even go to the trial. If parents don’t make an effort, their children will never change.”

Another male teen confronted by the court for gang rape expressed, “If we had good parents, we wouldn’t be living like this.” It’s sad to watch but it also happens in reality.

According to an article by Maryville University on juvenile delinquency, some of the risk factors on teenage crimes include “poor parent-child relationships, broken homes, and abusive or neglectful parents”.

2. Domestic violence and emotional abuse

Often, young abusers are victims of violence at home. Due to strained relationships and lack of healthy conversations with family members, teenage perpetrators lack the ability to communicate well with their peers. Instead, they become bullies, threaten, and manipulate others to prove themselves.

Miss O, the counselor in the drama, stated that when teens experience troubles at home, they tend to abuse themselves by committing a crime or by associating with a wrong crowd. For example, one of the gang rapists in the drama, grew up in an abusive home, witnessed his dad beating people, which caused his mother to leave. Broken, perhaps he found more meaning in hurting others through sexual assaults.

Sadly, abuse of any kind becomes a cycle that is hard to break and correct unless treated properly. One physically abusive father in the drama who was a victim of domestic violence perceives beatings as a form of child discipline. The judge confronted him, “Just because you were a victim of domestic abuse yourself, likewise using violence towards your own family, that is still undeniably a crime.”

The drama also conveys that it will be a long road to recovery for abused kids who abuse others. Judge Cha who was himself a victim of abuse by his father shared his insight, “She’s a child who suffered from abuse. Children like that never grow up. Time will pass by but they will just remain as an abused child regardless of that.”

Judge Cha could be right when he said that whether it’s neglect, physical violence, or emotional abuse, grown-ups don’t know how much it hurts their children.

For instance, verbal abuse through hurtful words that degrade someone’s worth or comparing someone with another is as lethal as physical abuse in effect. It happened to a son in the drama who attempted suicide because he felt unworthy by not meeting his father’s high standards. His mom confronted his father, “Why do you think he did that? He wanted your approval and attention. You compared him to Jeong-u on a whim and looked down on him.”

3. Social rejection, canceling, and bullying

Besides healthy monitoring and guidance from parents, the community outside home and the wider society also contribute significantly to the child’s well-being.

Judge Eunseok knows this perspective well based on her rich experience in dealing with juvenile cases. She stated, “They say it takes an entire village to raise a child. In other words, a child’s life could be ruined if the entire village neglects the child.”

When troubled kids are rejected, canceled, or denied of opportunities for protection, recovery, and growth, wounds go deeper that may lead to more harmful behavior. This is why Judge Eunseok is very dedicated and firm in addressing juvenile crimes and implementing justice conscientiously.

“It could lead to prostitution. Because that’s the only way they can make money. Because that’s the easiest. This is what happens to kids you kick out,” Judge Eunseok shared her opinion on unresolved cases out of frustration.

Another victim of gang rape experienced bullying and rejection from people, “Her mom told her not to hang out with me. I’m the victim. But why am I the one getting ostracized?” The act of canceling heightened her feelings of trauma and unworthiness.

Unfortunately, just as home could not be safe for kids from pain, the world outside is neither. “Everyone is a perpetrator,” Judge Eunseok said. “No one cares about these kids,” Judge Cha added.

Genre: Crime, Legal, Drama
Synopsis: A tough judge balances her aversion to minor offenders with firm beliefs on justice and punishment as she tackles complex cases inside a juvenile court.
No of episodes: 10
Starring: Kim Hye-soo, Kim Moo-yeol, Lee Sung-min, and Lee Jung-eun
Written by: Kim Min-seok
Directed by: Hong Jong-chan
Original network: Netflix
Date: February 25, 2022

Cover photo: Netflix Korea