Education About Asia: Online Archives

A Bully in the Classroom? Teaching Our Twisted Hero: A Modern Korean Classic

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Our Twisted Hero is a novel as dichotomous and complex as Korea itself. It is a classic political allegory, a snapshot of a particular time and place, and a portrait of the human condition. The narrator, Han Pyongt’ae, a twelve-year-old boy whose family has been transferred from Seoul to a rural town, expects to be welcomed as being more sophisticated because of his schooling in the capital. On the contrary, he encounters a harrowing year of elementary school when his spirit is crushed by the class bully, Om Sokdae. Pyongt’ae recalls how the teacher’s connivance, the other students’ conformist support for Sokdae, and Pyongt’ae’s parents’ indifference inexorably force Pyongt’ae to submit to Sokdae’s domination. Sokdae uses force and charm to manipulate his victims in his role as class monitor. Pyongt’ae’s initial resistance gives way after he is singled out for punishments and socially ostracized for months on end.The school year concludes with the students cheating to enable Sokdae to claim top academic honors.