“Because they’re staying warm, they don’t realize how cold it is outside. Life is just calm and happy for them,” cold-hearted and vengeful Moon Dong-eun simply illustrates one’s perception of others’ situation based on the emotional state a person is in. Simply put, sometimes it’s hard to comprehend the pain of another if life is too comfortable.
The revengeful journey of Moon Dong-eun.
Netflix’s The Glory (2022-2023) is a two-part gripping series about a woman named Moon Dong-eun whose childhood is marked by school violence and trauma, flawlessly portrayed by Song Hye-kyo and Jung Ji-so as the younger version. She spends years carefully plotting to ruin the lives of her high school bullies who tormented her body, mind, and soul.
Part one of eight episodes was released on December 30, 2022, opening with Moon Dong-eun who is driving with boxes in her car to move to a new apartment that allows her to see the tormentor’s mansion and her moves. By this time, she has saved up enough money from her tutorial sessions, fully psyched-up to fulfill her dream—to see her ultimate high school bully named Park Yeon Jin once again, who is now a weathercaster, “Starting today, my dream is you. I really hope we’ll see each other again.”
The plot switches back and forth between the nightmare of the past and personal vendetta in the present. Part one reveals a teenage Moon Dong-eun suffering from a brutal kind of school bullying and abuse—a group of wealthy classmates making fun of her, pressing a hot curling iron on her arms and legs with the boys sexually assaulting her and beating her without mercy. Instead of protection, she gets a physical abuse from a school authority while her mother uses her ruthless situation for money. So, she grows into a cold-hearted woman with only one focus in life—a meticulous plan for revenge, “There will be no forgiveness and so there will be no glory either.”
She takes up a job as a teacher at the school of her bully’s child, learns to master “Go” Korean board game to get closer to her tormentor’s husband, and more. Throughout the quest, she meets a young doctor who shows willingness to join her wild sword dance upon seeing her body marked with multiple, large burn scars, “I’m not looking for a prince. What I need is not a prince, but a headsman who will join me in the sword dance.” Joo Yeo Jeong, the young doctor responds, “I’ll do it. I’ll be your headsman. I’ll join the sword dance.” Part one ends on a cliffhanger and the epic saga of revenge continues in part two, which will be released on March 10, 2023.
The reality of trauma and its effects.
Moon Dong-eun’s story reflects revenge on the fact that there are wounds in life that run deep and permanent. In her case, school bullying is extremely brutal and violent to the point of driving her to the edge. No one was there to help, not even the police, the school authorities, nor her parents. The story also strongly shows how society often deals between the wealthy and the poor—how those with money and power easily get excused while the underprivileged gets neglected or unheard. There’s no denying the tsunami wave of pain and devastation that Moon Dong-eun feels, her kind of suffering that goes bone deep and marks huge scars that are permanent—making her incline to seek revenge.
Is school violence and the psychological effects of bullying depicted in the drama a reality? According to The Korea Herald, the “hot curling iron” incident in the drama relieved memories of the same case that took place at a girls’ middle school in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, in May 2006. The victim experienced beatings from a baseball bat, chest scratches and body wounds from a curling wand, and more, causing severe burns on her body with a protruding bone that led the abused to a six-week hospitalization.
Choi Woo Seong, a school commissioner in charge of school violence at the Gyeonggi Suwon Office of Education, revealed during a radio interview on January 11 that school bullying in real life is much worse than what’s depicted in the The Glory. Other school bullying cases revealed were: In 2020, a group of girls inserted foreign objects into a victim’s body and made her drink urine; In 2021, a group of bullies assaulted a foreign student, recorded the event and spread it online.
There could be more extreme school bullying stories, not just in South Korea, but also across the world. And Netflix’s The Glory (2022-2023) navigates this shocking and painful reality of school violence, raising public awareness on such issues. It also bravely tackles the impact of extreme bullying on a person’s psychological well-being. Although the case varies, the effects of bullying are long-term and can last into adulthood, being at greater risk for low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, weak social relationships, and to some aggression, according to various psychological studies. 1 2
In the case of Moon Dong-eun, she seems to exhibit a complex type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), a psychological condition that disrupts the quality of life as a result of repeated traumatic events. She manifests internal rage, a cold-hearted view of the world, mistrust towards others, isolation, vivid flashbacks of violence, and preoccupation with her tormentors, leading her to a journey of bloody revenge. “I’m afraid I’ll forget what I should be doing if I start laughing,” she tells her hired spy.
Others may have not experienced school violence, but may have experienced the same emotional torture causing wounds that run deep and long-lasting in effect, most especially chilhood trauma, which might include parental abandonment, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. For some, it might be betrayal, domestic violence, workplace bullying, cyberbullying, injustice, false accusation, murder cases, and others where pain goes much deeper. The list could go on.
A personal insight.
There is no denying the fact that trauma of any kind causes deep wounds and permanent scars in life, sometimes paralysis to others. Wounded people who feel deep-seated anger and seek revenge at some point is but a human nature and normal response to torment, but it becomes unhealthy if prolonged. Treatment on trauma varies from person to person but healing is possible by personal choice with the willingness and commitment to be set free from the horrors of the past, regardless of the case. While others experience freedom in meeting a counselor or seeking medical treatment, others find renewed hope in a Bible-believing community that shares each other’s burdens and pray for one another. Some find professional help and being actively involved in a safe place of community both beneficial for significant healing.
The story of Moon Dong-eun reminds me of the brutal violence that Someone experienced many years ago that serves as comfort to others who have been wounded or traumatized in life—reflecting upon the fully scarred body of Christ Jesus who was brutally beaten by Roman soldiers with a scourge of leather straps embedded with metal spikes, spit upon, slapped, laughed at, thrust a crown of thorns on his head to the point of bleeding, forced to carry a heavy cross in a wounded state, and nailed in both hands and feet to the cross, much worse than how a Roman soldier treats prisoners in those times. If Jesus were part of the cast in The Glory, I imagine Him comforting Moon Dong-eun, “I know how it feels. I’m here. Let’s cry together. It is Mine to avenge.” He who has experienced torture beyond recognition has become a wounded healer to anyone who is open to receive his soul-deep kind of healing in real life, “For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: ‘It is Zion; no one cares for her.”’ Jeremiah 30:17, NASB
To be set free from the nightmares of the past is a lifelong process that requires commitment. To some, a better and stronger self is the sweetest revenge. Scars may be permanent but one day, when healing comes, it will serve as a mark of bravery in winning a personal war. More so, such story may benefit others who need victory from the pit of darkness.
May Moon Dong-eun attain her desired outcome in the part two series. After all, it’s just a drama and we want her to win in destroying her abusers. But may the Moon Dong-euns in real life experience protection from the authorities, justice by law, comfort from a safe place of community, peace that is much deeper than the wounds inflicted, and strength to live life anew.
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