Dad, Where are We Going?, My Daughter Seo-Young, Miracle in Cell No.7 (7beon-bang-eui seon-mool). What is their common ground? First, they were hit works in the media, and second, they dealt with paternal love. Just like in the media, paternal love is an issue. We feel warmth through the father’s love which appeared on TV. Ko Sunjoo, who is a leader of the Korean Institute for Health and Family, said, “Today, our fathers in the media are more close emotionally like friends, whereas fathers in the past represented household authority as parents.”1 However, this is only media’s situation. In our real world, what is the real father’s image? Is this real in our society?
This is Dad’s Generation!
Recently, My Daughter Seo-Young, which was a KBS weekend drama, finished its final airing. This drama was famous for the paternal love depicted. Its story was focused on all the images of fathers in Korea. My Daughter Seo-Young drew all our society’s fathers and received a positive response which was proved by its average viewer rating of about 47.6 percent. In the film industry, Miracle in Cell No.7 was a box office hit about paternal love. Audiences were brought to tears by the poor father’s love for his daughter. And according to the Korean Film Commission, it hit 12.5 million viewers conclusively. Patrick Mao Hwang, representative of Taiwan Flash Forward Entertainment which bought the publication rights for the film, said, “I think Taiwan audiences may be moved by the amorous paternity of Miracle in Cell No.7.”2 The media attention to this issue can also be seen in Dad, Where Are We Going?, an MBC variety program. Song Jongkook, the only cast member with a daughter, constantly has a smile on his face during the show, because of his daughter Jia’s cute affectionate behavior. On the other hand, while paternal love has received media attention, maternal love has disappeared from view. In media, women have appeared as extreme wicked women. In My Daughter Seo-Young, the mother characters who were shown had snobbish images. For example, Seo-Young’s brother’s mother-in-law had the most violent temper in the drama. She was a character who liked money, success, and reputation. When her daughter was interested in a poor man, she bullied her about that. Also, in SBS drama Yawang, there was a mother who killed her daughter for her own success. These examples show media recognizing paternal love and degrading maternity.
People Want ‘Ddal Babo’
The media attention on fathers’ love for their children seems to be concentrated on daughters, which relates to the term ‘ddal babo*.’ Of course sons are also well-loved, but the paternal love for daughters has received more media focus. Then why has ddal babo emerged in media suddenly? Some experts said its big reason is because of an economic depression. In 1997, when Korea was in the IMF Management System, which was a serious economic depression, there was a best seller named The Father. That book showed our society’s fathers’ figure through a man in mid-life who was diagnosed with cancer. During that time which saw many unemployed heads of households, the book reminded people that the most important thing in hard times is family to embrace.3 These days are same with that time. In the effects of world economic depression, our society is struggling to recover from recession. When depression progresses, people want a human aspect and look for someone to hug them. And people’s requirement that wants to be embraced is more suitable for daughter’s image than son’s. Cultural critic Ha Jaegeun said, “The depression that is shown in our society expands the desire that the public wants warm family love.” And the father character in the media which is weaker than the mother made the father’s image seems warm. For that reason, the father is taking center stage in this troubled time, and the father’s image is not only warm, but also strong. This strong ddal babo image was also played by actor, Won Bin in the film Ajeossi, which is about a man who saved a young girl in danger. So the mentality of the mass wants to rely on someone who can act as a strong protector in such an anxious period.4 Therefore, not only are people in need of a kind father who can make us feel calm, but also a manly father who can lean against. However, there is one question. In real life, does this paternal code exist? We can show fathers’ and daughters’ happy scenes in media, but is that our real family?
Deep Conflict of Father and Daughter
“My father does not interfere in my life now, even if I sleep out,” said Gachon University student Han Cheongha. Fathers’ roles are expanded in media, but in real life, we can’t feel this phenomenon easily. She added, “I fight with my father every day. He is very good to my brothers, but to me, he is unfriendly.” And now, they have not been talking for long time.
Kyunggi University student Cho Eunbyeol said, “As I grow up, I feel like my father and I are drifting apart.” In her case, she was familiar with her father, but after entering university, she and her father came into conflict often. Also, she feels their communication is going less than before, and the number of fights is increasing.
According to a Korean Family Survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 33.5% of children indicate they have a lack of communication with their fathers, which was three times that of mothers (11.7%). In addition, as they grow, they feel a greater lack of communication with their fathers. However, this point of view was not only children’s. Fathers feel the same problems with their children. According to the same survey, 34.4% of fathers also responded that they lack communication with children, compared to only 19.8% of mothers.5
When 30-year marriage veteran Seo Taejung intervened in a fight between his wife and son, they responded, “Why are you doing such a thing that you never did before?” He was a strange person to his family when he came back after growing away from them. He said, “I am at an age that has to quit doing my parenting job halfheartedly, but I feel depressed that my part has been too narrow.”6
In real life, especially our university students’ lives, the existence of father is not like media’s. Although, thanks to media, the meaning of father has become more positive than before, university students, who have developed images of their fathers in their families since they were young, cannot easily see their fathers in the same light as the media portrays them. We are pleased seeing happy families, but the real relationship with father and daughter is not like that. Maybe, we are dependent in the media families, but not in our real family.
Then why is the relationship with father and daughter going awkward? That is because of the gap of generations that our fathers grew and ours. The generation our fathers grew up in was a serious patriarchal period, but the period in which daughters have grown up in has moved away from that patriarchy, so the gap of their understanding is bigger. Also, it can be wholly different. Fathers in mid-age want to have something different from this patriarchy in the past. And they thought quiet fathers are great ones, so they handed over many powers to mothers. They didn’t know passive household can’t do anything all the parts for both wife’s and children’s.7 According to Lee Sookyung in her book Why did You Marry Me if You Do like this, fathers have been given both responsibility and the authority to clothe and provide for their wives and families. In other words, the father has a doubleedged sword of responsibility and authority. And this authority appears by family’s respects through his life like convincing and sacrificing for his family. However, man fathers find only authority, not responsibilities of protection, discipline, and nurture. This action is like throwing away his authority and abandoning his own leadership. In such a family, where the father is feckless, the mother functions as a head and a leader, and children are confused by changing of parents’ roles.
Be a Comfort for Father, Now
Therefore, mother is being a leader of family, and as the number of working moms is increasing, children’s dependence and respect are leaning toward mother. And this makes father ignored.8 However, we should know why fathers abandoned their responsibilities. According to a report written by the Korean Women’s Development Institute, most Korean fathers think Father’s main role is ‘Financial Support Activity (56.5%).’ Also, they think an ideal father provides ‘High Economic Status (28.2%),’ while an ‘Homely Thoughtful Fathers’ was only ideal to 24.3%. This report said, “In Korean society, fathers are still regarded by male breadwinners, and in fact they spend most of their time in their career. Ideology supported in society and the factors which make excessive competition act as main reasons that paternity is not done right in real life.”9 They did not evade their possibilities. It is just their method is different from ours. They think the father’s role is just financial status, and he lives his life to be help to you that way. Today, this is when our fathers quit their jobs and come back to family. They live whole convincing lives for our family. We should make father’s place who can’t find his. We want fathers, who are in media, but our real father’s love is the same with theirs, but his methods to express his heart are different. How about turning our eyes from media to our real life? Today, when we go home, let’s massage our father’s shoulders. To our fathers, who have lived their whole lives for us, let’s be a comfort to them.
1 Ko Sunjoo, “This Year is Paternity’s Year,” Women News, March 11, 2013
2 Ha Sujeong, “Paternity of Miracle in Cell No.7 Went through Foreign Film Industry,” Newsen, March 19, 2013
* Ddal babo is a newly-coined word that indicates a father who cherishes his daughter extremely.
3 Song Yoonsei, “Paternal Love is Issue in Depression,” Newsen, December 13, 2008
4 Ha JaeGeun, “Convincing Dad, Be the Paternity Code,” The SeGye Times, March 10, 2013
5 Newsis, “'We Need Communication…’ Increasing of Silent Family,” The Chosun Ilbo, May 8, 2011
6 Kang ChangWook, “The Shadow of Matriarchy, the Fathers who Droops,” The Kookmin Ilbo, September 3, 2009
7 Same with Footnote 6
8 Ham Younghoon, “Angry Working Mom,” The Herald Business, May 3, 2011
9 Beak Soyong, “Korean Fathers, ‘Infant Care is on Mothers,’” The SeGye Times, January 20, 2009