Four years ago, this man went viral when his children gatecrashed a TV interview

Remember when the children of Prof Robert Kelly burst into his office during a live video call? Simpler times
Four years ago, this man went viral when his children gatecrashed a TV interview

Professor Robert Kelly being interrupted by his children during an interview live on BBC News about South Korea. Picture: BBC News/PA Wire

Four years ago today, our current working from home reality was foretold during a live broadcast on the BBC.

In March 2017, Professor Robert Kelly was explaining a very serious political topic on BBC World News: the impeachment of South Korea’s president and its potential consequences.

For the segment, Kelly, a political science professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, wore a suit and tie for his television appearance over video from his home office, with an eye-catching map of the world as his backdrop.

Prior to this interview, he spoke frequently to the global media from his apartment in Busan, where he lived with his wife, Jung-a Kim, and their children, Marion and James, then aged four and one. The couple had a well-practised routine to keep the apartment quiet during this time and to ensure the children were not disrupting his work. On this occasion, however, their son and daughter were centre stage while their mum was distracted.

Kelly was mid-sentence discussing democratic scandals when the door to his office opened and his young daughter was seen entering the room before dancing her way over to her dad. As he gently tried to push her away from the desk, the baby wheeled into the room in his walker. With a straight face, Kelly tried to continue with the discussion. It was only when his wife burst into the room to dramatically usher their children out, knocking books, crashing into walls and, finally, slamming a door shut on the way, that the moment became truly memorable.

“I couldn’t understand why the BBC was carrying on with the interview,” Kelly told The Guardian at the time. “Maybe they realised right away that this was comedy gold.”

It was a hot topic for weeks in 2017 and everything about it was dissected: Kelly’s role as a working dad, how parenting duties often fall to mothers, attitudes to children in professional settings, even race became a factor when Jung-a Kim was initially described in some reports as an au pair due to her ethnicity rather than as the children’s mother. 

However, many of us suggested on social media that if we were in his shoes and working from home, our children would be supervised by another parent and quietly colouring in another room or, even better, away at school while mammy or daddy conducted business in a home office with a locked door.

Fast-forward four years and we are all intimately familiar with our coworkers and bosses’ family members, spouses, pets and, of course, children.

While parents are trying to engage in video meetings, we see children haggling with their parents for treats or attention and we hear them burst into tears or tantrums in the background when homeschooling becomes too hard, or they miss their school friends, or any other one of many valid reasons that children are struggling with during the pandemic.

Do we still laugh as we laughed at the Kelly family? Oh no. Now, we empathise. More accurately, we now envy the Kellys. Sure they juggled work and parenting in the home, but there were two of them to share parenting duties and Kelly was lucky to work in a dedicated office space, rather than jostling for a corner of the kitchen table with another adult and homeschooled kids.

Plus, at least they could go to a cinema for a break or meet another adult for a coffee. The luxury.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd