Why the BBC's follow-up to the viral video of Professor Kelly, his kids and his Korean wife left me with questions

'Bob, were you stung by the suggestion that Jung-a was the nanny and not your wife?' they asked the white man

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The Independent Online

In a second interview with the family who this week have rocketed to international fame because of their interrupting children, the BBC returned to the scene of the mayhem. Few haven’t heard by now about the original interview, where the older child strolled in with the confidence of someone who themselves was about to be interviewed about what it was like being “the coolest kid in town”.

Her baby brother was not going to let a small thing like not being able to walk get in the way of himself sharing in his family’s five minutes of fame either. Wheeling along on a baby rambler second after his sister, he entered the room with comic timing which was only matched by the entrance of the children’s thunderstruck mother, who threw herself bodily around the room in an effort to catch the intruders. The second interview was a little less chaotic.

The original viral clip had prompted mass speculation on a number of issues, so yesterday the BBC was able to return to the household in which the wriggling children were now being more suitably restrained.

The BBC asked all the questions that we were dying to know the answers to. How the couple had felt after it happened, how surprised they had been by the reaction, whether Professor Kelly had stayed in his chair because he was naked from the waist down.

But then the BBC came to a more pertinent question, about the darker side of the otherwise entirely comical video. They asked how it must have felt that Kim Jung-a, Professor Kelly’s wife and mother to those children, was widely assumed to be their nanny by viewers and commentators.

The question tapped into the experiences of people of colour with mixed race children, the judgments they are all too often subjected to, and the stereotypical assumption under which Asian women often have to live – namely, the assumption that a woman of their heritage belongs in a servile position.

So when this question was asked, I perked up my ears. But I was sure I had heard it incorrectly. The interviewer asked: “Bob, were you stung by the suggestion that Jung-a was the nanny and not your wife?”

Surely there has been a mistake, I thought. How has that question been directed at Bob? Maybe the interviewer got confused and thought that Bob was a shortening of Kim Jung-a? Maybe the interviewer got distracted because his own children came blundering in, and he just misdirected the question?

But I don’t think either of these scenarios are very likely. What obviously actually happened was that out of a mixed race couple, the BBC chose to ask the white man what it felt like for his wife to have been racially stereotyped, whilst she sat right next to him, not asked about how she had felt about the assumption, what she thought about the debate, how these difficulties affected her life. Because Professor Kelly may know a lot about South Korea, but that doesn’t mean he has much insight into how it feels to be a South Korean woman.  

The irony was almost comical, but I wasn’t laughing. I was, however, punching the air when Jung-a Kim promptly proceeded to just answer the question herself. Because the question being addressed to her husband was a ridiculous illustration of the exact kind of prejudice that the interviewer was enquiring about.

Finally, as if there was any further debate as to whether or not she was a mother, Jung-a Kim gave the following answer: “I hope people just enjoy it and don’t argue over this thing.” She already has two pretty independently minded children on her hands – so instructing the world to stop squabbling must have been second nature.   

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