Back on March 10, after South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached on corruption charges, Pusan National University professor Robert E. Kelly appeared on the BBC to talk about how this would change the region. Although this was a serious subject, Kelly became a vial star because his two children interrupted the live interview. His wife, Kim Jung-A, was seen rushing into his office to drag the children out.
Kelly and Kim’s children are 8-month-old James and 4-year-old Marion. The couple have been married for six years.
It was Marion who crashed the interview first, with James following in his baby-walker. The original BBC YouTube video has been seen 18.3 million times already. Kelly also now has 23,400 followers on Twitter.
The 44-year-old Kelly is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University in Busan, Korea. He’s also contributed to The National Interest, Lowy Interpreter, Economist Intelligence Unit and Newsweek Japan. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Ohio State University and a B.A. from the Miami University of Ohio.
Here’s a look at Kelly and Kim, and their family.
1. Some Thought Kim Was a Nanny, But That’s Not the Case
In a statement on his blog, Asian Security Blog, Kelly wrote that Kim is not the children’s nanny, as some had assumed. She is his wife.
There were also concerns that Kim was using too much force to take the children out of the room while their father was trying to do his job. He wrote that this wasn’t the case either. As he explained:
No, Jung-A did not use too much force in removing the children from the room. It is quite apparent from the video that she is frantically trying to salvage the professionalism of the interview. The children were not injured. When Marion speaks in the clip, she says, in Korean, ‘why Mom?’ She is responding in surprise, because we normally do not treat out children this way. Marion’s willingness to comfortably traipse into my home office illustrates her usual ease with her parents.
Kelly also wrote that they did not punish their children after the interview was over. They honestly thought that he would never get asked to be on TV again.
“We have no comment on the many social analyses of the video. We see this simply as a very public family blooper, nothing more,” Kelly wrote.
In the statement, Kelly also apologized for not answering media requests immediately after the video went viral.
“We were unsure how to respond, and as the attention accelerated, we became genuinely unnerved,” he wrote. “We had no idea how to handle this. We therefore decided to return to the BBC for a follow-up interview for the international audience, to speak with the Wall Street Journal for the US domestic audience, and to hold today’s press conference for the Korean audience. We apologize to the many outlets that seem to find this dissatisfactory. We are doing the best we can.”
He also wrote that they have declined at-home interviews, but would be interested if the media still wants to do them next week.
As for why the BBC interviewed Kelly instead of bringing an expert physically into the studio, journalist Karen Koh told the Wall Street Journal that the BBC likely wanted to get perspective on the events in South Korea as soon as possible and speaking yo Kelly via satellite was the most convenient. He has also provided perspective for other British news outlets in the past.
2. She Teaches Yoga in South Korea
The couple lives in Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea. There, Kim teaches yoga, according to Kelly’s site. They have been married since 2010, his mother, Ellen Kelly, told the Daily Mail.
In an interview with the New York Times, Kelly said they met at a shopping mall after he arrived in South Korea in 2008. They don’t usually talk about race, but have wondered if his children will be criticized for being mixed-race.
“So far we haven’t gotten any flak,” he told the Times, adding that Marion is bilingual already. “We’re not really keen on this becoming the subject of some aspiring sociologist’s dissertation.”
They have traveled the world together. As he wrote on his blog, the two traveled to Africa together for several weeks in 2010. One of the things they had to get used to was how slow things moved in Africa.
“My wife and I, after 5 weeks already in-country, were just fine with it. We napped and read, and then watched Weird Al videos all day at the farm of a friend of our driver (yes, that’s true too). And no, the guide never even bothered to suggest that we be compensated for the whole lost day of the tour we paid for. Sigh.”
Kelly has lived in Korea since 2008 after living in Europe for four years. He is originally from Cleveland.
3. She Was Taping the Segment in Their Living Room
When she saved the day and inadvertently became the co-star of the biggest viral hit of 2017, Kim was really trying her best to stay out of view. She was watching her husband’s interview on TV, outside his office when she saw the children already in the room. Since there was a delay on the TV feed, she didn’t see them in the room right away.
“She was videotaping the interview so we could have a clip of it, and the kids sort of escaped and I had foolishly not locked the door,” Kelly later told the BBC. “It’s really all my fault for not locking the door.”
“He usually locks the door,” Kim told the Wall Street Journal. “Most of the time they come back to me after they find the locked door. But they didn’t. And then I saw the door was open. It was chaos for me.”
“We said to each other, ‘Wow, what just happened?’” Kelly told the Wall Street Journal. He took complete blame for the incident because he forgot to lock the door.
The Daily Mail later caught up with Kelly’s mother, Ellen Kelly, in University Heights, Ohio. She said her grandchildren probably just thought her father was Skyping with them because he regularly uses Skype to talk with them.
“Robert usually Skypes with us from his home office, which is where he did the interview. The kids probably heard voices coming from the computer and assumed it was us,” she told the Daily Mail. “It was just hilarious.”
4. Kelly Says His Wife Did a ‘Great Job’ by Cleaning Up the Mess
In his Wall Street Journal interview, Kelly said he thought his wife did a great job in reacting as quickly as she did.
“I mean it was terribly cute,” Kelly told the Journal. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.”
“My wife deserves a medal for taking care of us,” he also told the BBC.
Kelly has also confirmed that he was wearing pants when he was talking with the BBC.
5. They Were Very ‘Uncomfortable’ by the Assumption That Kim Was His Maid or Nanny
In a follow-up interview with the BBC, seen above, Kelly said they were “uncomfortable” with the assumption that Kim was his maid or a nanny for the children.
“Yeah, we were pretty uncomfortable with it,” Kelly said.
“I hope people just enjoy [the video] and not argue over this thing. Because I’m not [the] nanny. That’s the truth. So, I hope they stop [arguing],” Kim told the BBC.
In addition to his Wall Street Journal interview, Kelly held a press conference at his university in Korea to speak with the media there. He hopes that, in the future, he can go back to having a normal family life.
“This is now the first line in my obituary,” Kelly said during the press conference, reports the New York Times.
“I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous,” he told the Journal.
“Neither one of us are interested in politicizing this or having this provoke a backlash,” he told the New York Times.
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