Sunday, May 08, 2011

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What do You Think About This Article?

Dear Korean,

I'm sure you already read about this, but wondered all your readers' thoughts on the course.


Well, there's the question. Here is a quick preview of the article:
Like many of the men in the room, Rhim never wanted to come to Father School. (Seven dropped out after the first day.) “I’m not a bad father,” he told me a week earlier. But realizing how difficult it was for him to relate to his wife and two teenage kids — and realizing, finally, how empty that left him — he paid the $120 course fee and agreed to show up.

Father School has been helping Korean men like Rhim become more emotionally aware since 1995, when it started at the Duranno Bible College in Seoul. The mission, drawn up at the height of the Asian financial crisis, was to end what the Father School guidebook calls “the growing national epidemic of abusive, ineffective and absentee fathers.”

“Traditionally, in the Korean family, the father is very authoritarian,” Joon Cho, a program volunteer, told me a few weeks before this session of Father School began. “They’re not emotionally linked with their children or their wife. They’re either workaholics, or they’re busy enjoying their own hobbies or social activities. Family always comes last.”


In the midst of another participant’s group testimony, in which he talked about how he neglected his 16-year-old son when his son was battling drug and gambling addictions, he crumpled to the floor in tears. When he stepped down from the podium, a few members of the group gathered around him in a consolatory huddle while the rest applauded.
The Korean Dads’ 12-Step Program [New York Times]

Readers, what are your thoughts?

-EDIT 5/9/2011-

After some reflection, here is the Korean's thought:

The Korean Father is probably a prime candidate for the Father School. In his life, he has never said "I love you" to his sons. He has never called the Korean unless there is an actual issue to discuss; the phone call is over after that issue is discussed. Hugs are awkward for him -- he puts his hand out, as if to fend off an attacker.

But the Korean has never wavered in his belief that his father loves him. TKFather already gave up his incredibly great career in Korea to bring his sons to America, for no other reason than giving them better education. The Korean knows, with absolute certainly, that his father will give his life for his son. So the Korean does not need his father to attend any Father School, because he does not need any communication to be assured that his father loves him. The actions by his father have been plenty of proof.

The fact that these fathers attend the Father School, to the Korean, indicates the supreme sacrifice that these men are willing to make to fulfill their fatherly duty -- their children want them to do it, so they put themselves through the humiliation. The Korean would have never, ever asked his father to do that.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. It's a nice attempt to get Korean dads to be more affectionate and loving. I don't know what else to say about it except that in my opinion these husbands probably won't wash their wives feet ever again.

  2. I think it's a good idea, though I think there's a gap between older and younger Korean fathers, though even how much a younger father can be there for his children is limited by things like his work hours.

    For many of my students, they would love to spend time with their father, but it's simply not possible.

  3. My dad was a representative of the worst kind of traditional Korean father (yes, I recognize there are different ways to interpret what a traditional Korean father is -- it's just that mine embodied the worst parts). When my parents got divorced it was cause for celebration on my part. I don't know where my father is buried, and I don't really care all that much, but if and when I find out, I will surely pay his grave a visit and pour him a drink. It'll just pass through me first.

  4. I'm not going to make generalizations about all Korean men because I don't know them all and i'm sure they vary, but if this course is able to help fathers connect with their families better and deal with issues they have been neglecting in their lives, I support it.

  5. Fathers are the mirrors of their fathers. Some try to be the opposite but there is always a shade following from the generation before. If you want to change there is more to it than just an evening course and a diploma. The whole society must be involved.

  6. Being Korean and a Christian, I understand and support the program as a FIRST step.

    I do have a problem at the way the article was written. I'm assuming the writer isn't Korean and so doesn't really understand Korean dads or how many Korean American children view their relationship with their dads.

    "it felt an awful lot like prom night"
    I don't know what kind of prom the writer went to but it must've been a really shitty one.

  7. My Korean father and grandfather are like this.
    I wouldn't want to change either of them.
    It'll be too awkward.

  8. I'm getting used to my dad's "robot hugs." Although I don't think he even told me or my brother he loves us, I know he does by everything he does and has done for us, much like the examples TK gives about his father. However, I do believe that the Father School may be a necessary step with the younger generation of kids/teens. Even I don't understand them!

    Do I want to have a "date" w/ my dad? hmmmm.....when he popped up on my FB page as a "potential friend,", I said oh, hell no! Although, deep down, I think my dad would be the coolest and smartest "friend" on my list.

  9. I do have a problem at the way the article was written. I'm assuming the writer isn't Korean and so doesn't really understand Korean dads or how many Korean American children view their relationship with their dads.

    Do you have to be Korean to write about Koreans? To carry this sort of argument further, it's a bit like saying that if you aren't the person who wrote it, you don't really understand the writer, what he/she wrote and why he/she wrote it.

  10. Teaching at a high-level Korean foreign language boarding school, many of my students have fathers with high-powered careers. It's striking how aching these students are, especially boys, for attention from adult males. Playing soccer or basketball with them or attending their rock band's concert or something means a LOT to them. One girl wrote a personal essay about how extraordinarily lucky she feels because she actually HAS a dad who says "I love you" occasionally. I'm sure these students' fathers are sacrificing PLENTY for them. But ultimately, there are no substitudes for genuine emotion, attention, and affection, freely and liberally shown.
    I remember a striking experiment where a baby monkey, separated from his mother, could choose between a stark, wire mock-up of a mother figure that nonetheless provided plenty of milk, or a warm, blanket-covered mock-up that provided NO MILK. The monkey chose the "huggable" mom over the "providing" mom.
    The conclusion? It's not a cultural thing. It's a species thing. People need hugs.

  11. feld_dog,

    Valid point, but here is another thing to consider. If we had the baby monkeys choose between simple water and sugared water, they would invariably choose the sugared water. And that is a natural choice -- species (ours include) require calories.

    But the real question is: how much calories? How much hugs and emotional responses? And what costs do those responses come with?

    This is just a personal preference, and the Korean does not mean to denigrate anyone else's perfectly acceptable preferences. But if the Korean ever saw his father in that class, the Korean will probably kill himself over dealing with seeing his father being humiliated like that. The Korean Father did everything he is supposed to do as a father, and the Korean is not about to be ungrateful and ask him for more.

  12. Hello Im Nancy Nguyen and Im very in to history I want to ask is there anymore Royal family member that are still living til this date?


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