Trigger warning: This article contains stories of bullying and violence
The audience was treated to the physical, mental, and emotional scars inflicted by school bullies on Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) as early as the first episode. The severity of the bullying was beyond enough to leave lifelong trauma on Dong-eun, who is triggered on a daily basis by the multilayer abuse dealt by her tormenters, led by Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon).
Even fans who could relate with their own experiences as bullying victims couldn't stomach the curling iron scenes, which we come to learn throughout the series have actually taken place many times over as the adult Dong-eun has scars from the neck down.
Perhaps the most harrowing detail is that this tragic tale of revenge actually draws much inspiration from factual events. According to The Glory creator Kim Eun-sook and the Korean media, here are specific, real-life cases that fueled the writer's imagination.
A 2006 incident at Cheongju girls' middle school was so heinous that in light of The Glory, a netizen commented that "the reality is more serious than the drama." At the time, a 14-year-old girl suffered severe wounds from her classmate, as seen in a picture of the burn on her arm.
Three of her classmates bullied her for weeks, extorting her money. When she couldn't meet their demands, they would beat her with a baseball bat, scratch her chest with a barrette, physically abuse her with their fists and feet, and finally, burn the victim’s arm with a curling wand.
The physical abuse was so grave that it resulted in the victim's protruded tailbone and consequent six-week hospitalization. The victim later said in a local media interview that her wounds had no to time to heal as her bullies would burn her body to check if the hair curler was hot enough every few days. To make it worse, the perpetrators peeled her healing scabs raw with their nails as "punishment."
Korean media similarly reported the case of a man in his early 20s who was set on fire by peers around his age on his birthday.
The perpetrators who knew the 22-year-old victim forcibly dragged him to a dark area at around 11 p.m. on Jul. 15, 2020. The victim, seated in a chair, had a hood placed over his head and was tied up with tape. The perpetrators then sprayed gasoline around him before placing on his knees firecrackers that eventually ignited the gasoline and then the victim.
The victim suffered severe third-degree burns on over 40 percent of his body. Worse, the hospital bill exceeded over twice the amount of the legal settlement, which was insufficient to pay for his skin transplant surgery and reconstructive treatment.
Mother's worst fear
Lastly, but not necessarily least, Kim Eun-sook herself had a real-life experience that strikes fairly close to the narratives of protagonist Dong-eun and antagonist Yeon-jin. This involves her daughter's unusual question that frightened her beyond imagination, hence The Glory.
"Mom, would you be more heart broken if I beat someone to death or if I got beat to death by someone else?" her daughter asked.
The writer thought to herself: "It was hellish for me. The story unfolded in my head in that instance and that's how I began writing the story for The Glory."
Part 2 of The Glory will be available on March 10 on Netflix.