One year ago, a 4-year-old girl and her baby brother in a walker-stroller barged in on their father while he was being interviewed live on the BBC about the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
The hilarious collision between work and family life stole the hearts of millions around the world. At that time, it wasn’t quite as adorable to Robert Kelly, now known simply as “BBC Dad.”
‘The kids are really small and we don’t want to overexpose them where weirdos come and photograph them. You have to protect them.’
The political science professor at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea maintained his composure on air, but thought he’d never be asked for an interview again after that. Instead, the clip of his children, chased and dragged out of the room by their mother, went viral, and he’s been recognized everywhere from the local supermarket to international airports.
On March 11, the one-year anniversary of the clip (and his daughter’s fifth birthday), he took to Twitter for an “Ask Me Anything”and shared his thoughts on “The Interpreter,” dispelling rumors that he was not wearing pants during the interview and that his family staged the entire scene.
Kelly spoke to MarketWatch about what’s come out of the “family blooper” one year later, work-life balance and becoming famous.
MarketWatch: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from this whole episode?
‘With the cloud, you don’t have to be trapped in an office, which means you’re going to be home more, and you’ll be more open to disruption from family.’
Robert Kelly: When you do these kinds of television interviews, you have to be careful, especially in an unstructured environment at home. I’m much more cautious about locking the door and talking to my wife before interviews. You can sometimes hear on TV the kids smashing on the door when I do client calls. A lot of people do work at home and work-life balance is a big deal. With the cloud, you don’t have to be trapped in an office, which means you’re going to be home more, and you’ll be more open to disruption from family. That’s something I didn’t appreciate until last year.
MarketWatch: What did friends and family say after the video went viral?
Kelly: There were a lot of parents who said “I’ve had that happen and my kids get out of control.” A lot of people saw themselves in the efforts to keep private and professional lives separate.
‘We did talk shows that paid a little bit of money, no big windfall. I still teach my classes, and they’re more heavily enrolled. That’s funny.’
MarketWatch: What was your perception of working from home before the video, versus after?
Kelly: Before I hadn’t thought of it. The kids are young and I’m still adjusting to being a father. I didn’t think of kids bursting in. One time it almost happened. A year ago, my daughter peeked in and then ran away, and after that I remembered to lock the door. But the day this happened, I forgot. I had six interviews before and was watching the news all day, and was writing an article for Newsweek.
Whenever something big happens in South Korea, it is a busy day for me because I’m a Westerner on the ground in Korea, and I was exhausted. It must have been around 7 p.m. and I was tired, and I forgot to push the lock button. That’s the funny part: All of this happened from one minor slip.
MarketWatch: What’s your stance on paternity leave, and a good work-life balance?
Kelly: I didn’t do it. I assumed I would always work, and never have leave. I never looked into it. Generally speaking, fertility rates are all going down. If you want greater birth rates and fertility, and a work-life balance, let moms keep their jobs and not quit.
Why shouldn’t that apply for fathers? The big problem is just you always work. Koreans’ biggest problem is they overwork. They work 300 hours a year more than Americans do.
[South Koreans work 2,069 hours a year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, compared to 1,783 hours in the U.S.]
‘Koreans’ biggest problem is they overwork. They work 300 hours a year more than Americans do.’
MarketWatch: How has this changed the way you work at home?
Kelly: Just being more cautious about doing live work at home. I am more cautious about TV and Skype
consulting, because I can’t have the kids running in. And that’s hard, because the kids are small and they run away, and my wife gets exhausted. She’s got 28 things to do. It’s a regular problem in the home, I assume it will outgrow.
MarketWatch: How did your wife respond to all of this?
Kelly: We were mixed. It was strange becoming superfamous, you sort of lose your anonymity. I don’t mind because I was already in my own little space where I don’t care if people scream at me, but the concern was my kids and wife. She’s a private person and not keen on being famous.
The kids are really small and we don’t want to overexpose them where weirdos come and photograph them. You have to protect them. That’s why we didn’t talk to the media for a week. We put the kids on TV two to three times because there is so much pressure and so much interest to succumb, but in principle we do not put them on Facebook
MarketWatch: A lot of the response was positive but some of it was negative, and involved assumptions about your family and you.
Kelly: We just blew all that off. [People were] making judgments about race and gender because we are an interracial couple. People confused her with the nanny. She dealt with it with grace and let it roll off and smiled. It wasn’t good — we didn’t like it — but we weren’t offended. It was a family blooper.
‘People confused [my wife] with the nanny. She dealt with it with grace and let it roll off and smiled. It wasn’t good — we didn’t like it — but we weren’t offended.’
MarketWatch: How has this affected your career?
Kelly: I get called more and people now know who I am. I get more invitations, so I spoke in the Philippines and I’m going to Sydney. People ask if we make some big money or are like movie stars. We did talk shows that paid a little bit of money, no big windfall. I still teach my classes, and they’re more heavily enrolled. That’s funny.
MarketWatch: What’s your favorite thing to come out of all of this?
Kelly: The general sense that people were made happier by this brief little moment. Last year with ISIS, Donald Trump and the impeachment of the president in South Korea, people said with the doom in the political system this was so nice. That’s the big takeaway: A small positive moment with the joy of kids acting like little kids.
(This interview was edited for style and space.)