Current Affairs

Video Mondays: Our Thinning Moral Fiber

Looking back at some events that have corroded society’s decency in the past few months: the death of Chinese toddler Wang Yue; the systematic sexual abuse of children at the Inhwa School and the movie that changed South Korean laws; and the recent revelations about the scandal at Penn State.

At VTP, we love a good joke as much as the next loopy ivrogne, but some subjects are just too serious that there’s no room for levity. While we don’t mean to douse the beginning of your week with melancholy or misanthropy, we do think it’d be good if VTP could provide readers with  materials and media to think a little more critically about their world. So, today’s selections for Video Mondays confronts the uglier side of society: the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable  and the willful inaction of those in the position to help.

The first video, one most of us are probably are already familiar with, is the tragic death of Chinese toddler Wang Yue. This is less about exploitation than it is about the corrosion of goodwill. As a reminder, Yue was struck down by a truck. For more than ten minutes, no one stopped to help her. It was Chen Xianmei, an elderly garbage scavenger, who finally stopped to help the injured toddler. Yue later died in a hospital, and while Xianmei was recognized for her actions by most people, others accused her of seeking fame in stopping to help Yue.

To echo what others have written, Yue’s story begs the question: Has Chinese society so decayed that people lack the moral decency to stop and help a dying child?

But is this moral decay really something endemic to Chinese society alone?

Below is a trailer for “Silenced,” a South Korean movie that came out this year (the movie’s title in Korean is “Dogani,” which translates to “Crucible”). The film is based on true events at the Inhwa School in Gwangju, South Korea, a special school ostensibly set up to help hearing impaired students. In 2005, it was revealed that a number of administrators and teachers at the school had been engaged in the systematic rape of students aged seven to 22 since 2000.  The case went to trial, but most of the defendants, including the school’s principal and his brother, basically got away with a slap on the wrist. There were rumors of a cover-up and people in high positions buying their way out of jail.  Perhaps equally disturbing is the fact that a number of community members rallied in defense of the alleged rapists–many of whom were highly influential members of the community’s elite–and accused the human rights groups trying to aid the victims of being evil and Satanic.

Although they may not be exact mirrors, the Inhwa case seems to eerily parallel to another case that recently surfaced in America–the Penn State Scandal. Under charitable pretenses, Penn State’s former defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky used Second Mile to lure victims to his side. Much like the perpatrators at Inhwa, he specifically targeted at-risk children to satiate his desires. And, much like those in Gwangju, there are many rallying in defense of Penn State’s former head coach Joe Paterno. Yes, Paterno himself was not involved in sexual abuse and he fulfilled his obligations in the eye of the law, but should we really continue to deify him as a man who can do no wrong?

Note: So as to not completely demoralize our readers, here’s something encouraging. Even though it was long overdue, the moral outrage that followed the release of “Silenced” led the Korean legislation to re-evaluate laws concerning sex crimes. The legislation will move forward with revised laws that enforce greater punishment on those who commit sex crimes and make it easier for victims to come forward when abused. “Silenced” is playing in selected cities across the U.S. now. See for more information.

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