Korea
Korea
Play Clip 1 Maraton
Play Clip 2 Maraton
 
Play Clip 4 Maraton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Milal School
Milal School
 
 
 
 
The Korean film "Maraton" (prounounced the way the main character says the word " Marathon") was a smash hit in 2005. The movie is based on the true story of a man with autism, named Bae Hyong-Jin, who is a skilled marathon runner. It had a profound effect on autism awareness in Korea, a place where there is so much stigma associated with brain disorders that autism is often kept secret. The term "autism" is well known in Korea today, and there is even a new and popular soap opera, "Letters for my Parents," which is about a family raising a boy with autism.
 
 
Letters for my Parents scene

Letters for my Parents

"Maraton" is the best movie I have ever seen about autism. Here are four clips, all of which relate to the main character Cho-won's fascination with animals, especially zebras. The first clip, in which he recites a text about how animals raise their young, foreshadows Cho-won's mother's struggles to help him mature. In the second clip, Cho-won is concerned not to miss his favorite TV show, "Animal Kingdom." Interestingly, he bows to his younger brother and uses very formal language, which one should not do. It is the equivalent of an English-speaking child reversing pronouns. In the third clip, Cho-won has been arrested after touching a woman's zebra-patterned purse. She not only believes he was trying to steal the purse, she thinks he should be "locked up in a nuthouse." You will cheer for Cho-won's mother. And, finally, in the fourth clip, Cho-won gets in trouble again, this time for touching a woman's zebra patterned skirt. This is a moving and difficult scene to watch, as Cho-won repeats something his mother has said before, "My son is a special child." Those are the words in the English subtitle but actual Korean words, "My son is disabled," would strike the Korean speaker as quite blunt.
 
 
Milal School
 
Milal School. This is a wonderful school for children with autism called Milal School in an area of Seoul called Ilwon-dong. For me, it is a symbol of how things are changing for the better in Korea. When it was being built in the mid-1990s, some of the wealthy residents of this quiet neighborhood south of the Kangnam River in Seoul picketed the site, cut the school's phone lines, physically assaulted school administrators, and filed a lawsuit to halt construction, because they believed that the presence in the neighborhood of children with disabilities would lower property values. The school opened in 1997, but only with a compromise. It was required to alter its architecture so that the children were completely hidden from public view. Some of the protestors were brutally honest. They said they didn't want their children to see or meet a child with autism. Today, the Milal school is a jewel in the Ilwon-dong neighborhood where hundreds of neighbors volunteer. The architect was given an award for the building. And the gym is used for community events, such as concerts and church services. In the afternoon, when school lets out, families come by to pick up their children and sometimes take a leisurely walk in the neighborhood, for all to see.
 
 
Milal School
 


©2007 Roy Richard Grinker