Pro­fes­sor’s spouse at cen­tre of racist de­bate shrugs off dis­crim­i­na­tion

New Straits Times - - World -


THE pro­fes­sor who be­came an in­ci­den­tal In­ter­net sensation when his fam­ily crashed a live tele­vi­sion in­ter­view says his wife “de­serves a medal” for look­ing af­ter him and his now-fa­mous chil­dren.

Video of the in­ter­view with Robert Kelly, an ex­pert on East Asian af­fairs, went vi­ral and sparked a de­bate about racism af­ter many com­men­ta­tors orig­i­nally as­sumed his Asian wife was a hired helper.

As Kelly, a pro­fes­sor at South Korea’s Pu­san Na­tional Univer­sity, shared his in­sights from his home of­fice last Fri­day, his daugh­ter, Mar­ion, waltzed into the room, fol­lowed by his tod­dler son, James, who wheeled in on his baby walker.

Kelly’s wife, Kim Jung-a, who was watch­ing the in­ter­view on tele­vi­sion from their liv­ing room, flew in sec­onds later, fling­ing her arms in a desperate at­tempt to re­trieve the young in­trud­ers, be­fore re­turn­ing on all fours to reach out and close the door.

The in­ter­view — de­scribed as a “per­fect piece of phys­i­cal com­edy” by the BBC — spread like wild­fire, watched more than 160 mil­lion times on the broad­caster’s YouTube page as of yes­ter­day.

But it also trig­gered ac­cu­sa­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion in South Korea af­ter some on­line posters over­seas im­me­di­ately as­sumed that Kelly’s wife was a nanny.

“The babysit­ter is cur­rently search­ing for new em­ploy­ment as of now,” said a user on Twitter.

An­other tweeted: “Nanny got fired af­ter this.”

Ma­jor South Korean me­dia out­lets said such com­ments were the re­sult of prej­u­dice about Asian women with white males, with South Korean broad­caster SBS re­fer­ring to “Cau­casian-cen­tred racism”.

South Korea’s big­gest-cir­cu­la­tion news­pa­per, Cho­sun Ilbo, wrote: “As­sum­ing that she was a nanny be­cause she’s Asian must have been a sub­con­scious thought.”

Ap­pear­ing next to Kelly in a fresh BBC in­ter­view on Tues­day, Kim shrugged off the dis­crim­i­na­tory com­ments, urg­ing view­ers to take the video more light­heart­edly.

“I hope peo­ple just en­joy it, not ar­gue over this thing be­cause I’m not (a) nanny and that’s the truth,” Kim said as she tried to keep her dis­tracted tod­dler calm in her arms.

Ad­dress­ing a BBC viewer’s com­ment that Kim de­served a full-on spa day for ev­ery­thing she did in Fri­day’s chaotic in­ter­view, Kelly said: “My wife de­serves a medal for tak­ing care of us.” AFP


Robert Kelly with his wife, Kim Jung-a, and chil­dren be­ing re-in­ter­viewed by the BBC on Tues­day.

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