Sangwoo’s reaction and why it’s significant
I see a lot of people either disappointed over Sangwoo’s reaction or bemused because they expected it. I think there’s more to it. When I read the chapter, I noticed a few important things that I would like to point out. First, it’s important to remind everyone that Sangwoo is not a normal person. His way of dealing with trauma is to confront it, and exterminate the problem at its core. Sangwoo does not like feeling vulnerable. It diminishes his masculinity. It reminds him too much of his past, and of his mother who–like Bum–seemed to be the type of person who was easily taken advantage of. Frankly, weakness and indecisiveness just piss him off.
This brings me to my next few points:
When Bum spoke of his trauma, it reminded Sangwoo too much of his mother.
Now, please note. We don’t know how Sangwoo’s parents perished. Some assume he killed them both, but that doesn’t make sense. Personally, with how Sangwoo speaks of mother with fondness, even I find it hard to believe that Sangwoo killed his own mother. (My theory is Sangwoo’s dad killed her during a domestic abuse episode and in turn, Sangwoo killed his dad.)
If you remember, there was that one scene way back when where it depicted “Sangwoo’s” hands around his mother’s neck, but I don’t think those were his hands. Sangwoo was hallucinating.
That’s not from his point of view. It’s from his Dad’s point of view. And do you see that smile. Do you see how his mother isn’t fighting back? That’s stayed with him forever. His mother just taking it isn’t something that he’s forgotten. And what does Bum do? He takes it, just like his mother. He doesn’t stab his abuser, like Sangwoo suggests. He doesn’t do anything, because he’s afraid. So Sangwoo, whether consciously or not, starts drawing parallels: Bum (My Mom) is a weak person, who allowed his Uncle (My Father) to abuse him (her).
It’s history repeating itself and Sangwoo fucking hates it. So when Sangwoo reacts hostilely to Bum’s story, it’s not that he’s incapable of emotion or that he doesn’t “get” that Bum’s been raped. Quite the opposite.
He’s throwing a tantrum. He’s upset Bum was assaulted. In his head, Bum practically allowed it. And this anger shows in some fucked up way, he’s started to like Bum. I wouldn’t say “cherish”, because I’m not sure Sangwoo is capable of that, but he cares about Bum in a way that’s like his mother but not quite. (I think more so like a pet then a partner.) He knows what happened to Bum and what it all means, but he’s unable to act sympathetically, because he just wished that Bum (unlike his mother) could have fought back. Now let me say, this isn’t an attempt to justify Sangwoo’s reaction.
I’m a victim of sexual assault. I know, more than anyone, how fear can paralyze you into submission. I sympathize with Bum. I feel horrible for him. But Sangwoo isn’t, again, a normal person. He’s a sociopath. So Sangwoo doesn’t see that. He just sees two things: Bum didn’t try. Bum disappoints me. And it infuriates Sangwoo, because in a way, Bum’s uncle wins. Just like Sangwoo’s father won when he abused his mother.
Sangwoo is hurt.
Most importantly, Sangwoo’s selfish.
His emotions are the only thing that matter to him.
Bum’s feelings mean nothing.
I think Sangwoo was planning to have sex with Bum.
Okay, I know, another stretch. But if you think about the last chain of events, it makes sense. Sangwoo has started to develop feelings for Bum. Not just emotionally, but sexually. Now given this new piece of information, I think Sangwoo is not only angry that Bum didn’t fight back, but that the abuser has been with Bum in an intimate way before he has. I think Sangwoo assumed Bum was a virgin, and he had planned on consummating their “relationship” very soon. The fact that Bum’s uncle already has done so… someone who’s abused Bum and reminds him of his Father… Well…
For him, that’s a turn off, and a let down.