The child’s double eyelid-less eyes shone playfully.When I met the child on the 16th, she hid behind a column and laughed while sticking out her head. We introduced ourselves and her face turned red. Pen and paper were produced and the child drew various pictures. A baby bird was receiving a present from its mother, and a child dressed in red, just like her, smiled brightly. Not showing her face, the child had been communicating her thoughts through pictures. The nine-year girl is the one known by the name “Na-young”.
This was not the first picture drawn by Na-young that the world saw. That was a picture asking that 57-year old Jo Du-sun, the man who sexually assaulted her, be punished by being beaten in a prison full of cockroaches. The media reported the picture in her place. After the incident the child suffered from depression and disabling stress from her injuries. She portrayed her pain in her drawings. Na-young’s voice and laughter had disappeared. She would become irritated by the slightest action of anyone nearby. Small noises would startle her, and she would bury her face in her hands.
The child thought the incident had been her fault. Na-young received mental health treatment for two months afterward. Yonsei University professor Shin Ui-jin, a former family doctor, said removing her self-guilt was the first goal of her mental treatment. “It is not your fault. It is the man who is bad.”
After her story was reported on October 31st, the nation reached out to her. A medical equipment business adapted an adult colostomy bag to her child’s body. Prof. Han Seok-ju of Severance Children’s Hospital offered to perform surgery to restore her anus. If it works she can discard the colostomy bag. Na-young’s father said, “the interest and kindness of strangers saved my daughter.”
Na-young has changed. She said she wanted to go to school. Her parents wanted to transfer her to a different school, but she said there was no need. She began inviting her friends to their home. In September she began attending a hagwon. But the hagwon is right across the street from the scene of the crime. Her father hesitated. But Na-young said she didn’t care. She said she like studying math. Her grades were nearly the same as before the incident. She scored over 90 on her latest test. She laughs and her depression has disappeared, and she has begun holding hands with people. The picture Na-young showed to this reporter was titled “change”.
Though she previously wanted to be a chef, her new dream is to be a doctor. I asked her the reason. “I was sick and the doctor helped me.” Prof. Shin said, “Na-young is now 70% recovered. The only thing left is to go through puberty.”
Na-young sent a picture and card to Prof. Shin and attorney Lee Myeong-suk, the human rights director of the Korean Bar Association (대한변호사협회). In neat handwriting she wrote, “Teachers! Thank you for taking care of me so well.” Next to her, her father smiled. “That’s what Na-young is going to write to everyone who helped her and supported her.”