Racism row after media outlets call US professor’s wife his MAID

Live television always leaves room for hilarious gaffes - which is exactly what happened when a BBC debate on South Korea was interrupted by the interviewee's children. The hilarious footage shows expert Robert Kelly, an associate professor of Political Science at Pusan National University in Busan, handling serious questions on the country's president, Park Geun-hye, being ousted from power. But suddenly, a toddler bursts into the room in a bright yellow top and performs a comical dance behind the Cleveland, Ohio, native. Kelly, who was born and studied in the US before moving to Korea, focuses entirely on the camera as he attempts to blindly hand off his child, who is clearly curious as to who he is talking to. And his parental problems soon double as a baby also excitedly makes his way into the room in a stroller. To complete the farce, his wife then comes skidding through the threshold.

It was the viral video of the week that made millions smile but why did so many people assumed BBC professor’s wife was his MAID?

    • Prof Robert Kelly was interrupted during a live TV interview over Skype
    • The hilarious video has been viewed hundreds of millions of times
    • His frenzied-looking wife Jung-a Kim dragged the children out of the room
    • Several media outlets and social media users assumed Ms Kim was the nanny

Media outlets and social media users have been accused of racism for suggesting the woman who pulled two children out of the room when they hilariously interrupted their dad’s BBC television interview was the nanny and not their mother.

The hilarious footage shows expert Robert Kelly, an associate professor of Political Science at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, handling serious questions about the country’s president, Park Geun-hye, being ousted from power.

The video, which has been viewed hundreds of millions of times since going viral last week, shows his two children Marion, 4, and nine-month-old James bursting into his home office.

His wife then rushes in behind them, staying close to the ground while trying to keep out of the shot of the camera, and drags the kids out before lunging to shut the door.

Robert Kelly and his wife Jung-a Kim and daughter Marion - who started the interruption which created a viral sensation. Many people mistook Mr Kelly's wife for his children's nanny 

Robert Kelly and his wife Jung-a Kim and daughter Marion – who started the interruption which created a viral sensation. Many people mistook Mr Kelly’s wife for his children’s nanny.

The interviewee's toddler bursts into the room in a bright yellow top and performs a hilarious dance behind him

The interviewee’s toddler bursts into the room in a bright yellow top and performs a hilarious dance behind him

His parental problems soon double as a baby also excitedly makes his way into the room in a stroller

His parental problems soon double as a baby also excitedly makes his way into the room in a stroller

To complete the farce, his wife comes skidding through the threshold to collect the children

To complete the farce, his wife comes skidding through the threshold to collect the children

Several media outlets reported that the woman was the children’s nanny, when she was in fact his wife, Jung-a Kim.

The assumption has sparked a backlash with many people criticising media outlets for demonstrating bias and perpetuating stereotypes.

Thousands of people commenting on the video on Facebook and Twitter also wrongly assumed she was the nanny, with many saying they felt for her and ‘hoped she kept her job’.

Critics have said that the assumption was based on racial stereotypes about the roles played by Asian women, with many seeing them as servient.

‘People fell back on stereotypes,’ said Phil Yu, a blogger at Angry Asian Man.

‘There are stereotypes of Asian women as servile, as passive, as fulfilling some kind of service role,’ he continued. ‘People were quick to make that assumption.’

 

Others have suggested that they believe that people’s prejudices prevent them from accepting the fact that a white man with a high status job would be married to an Asian woman.

The media was also criticised for naming Prof Kelly, but not his wife.

But some have claimed that these suggestions are unfair, as it was the frenzied look on the woman’s face that caused them to believe she was the nanny, and fearing for her job – although critics say she was reacting as any mother would.

However, to Korean speakers it would have been obvious that Ms Kim was the children’s mother, because during the video, Marion appears to say in Korean: ‘Why? What’s wrong?’ and ‘Mummy, why?’

A highly respected expert on South Korean politics, Prof Kelly has written for outlets including Foreign Affairs, The European Journal Of International Relations and The Economist.

He earned his bachelors degree in political science from the University of Miami and completed his PhD at Ohio State.

Kelly moved to Korea in 2008, and married Jung-a Kim, a former yoga teacher who is now a stay-at-home mother to their two children.

Among the critics was author Roxane Gay, who tweeted: ‘Today one of the funniest, most charming videos showed me that we have way more work to do than I ever thought.’

She was then challenged by a Twitter user who argued: ‘I think it’s a fair assumption.

‘She looks way younger than the dude and looks like a different ethnicity than her children.’

But Gay replied with: ‘It’s only a fair assumption if you’re racist’, and added: ‘Some of you should look long and hard at why you assume that mother is the nanny.’

Author Roxane Gay was among those criticising people for making assumptions

Author Roxane Gay was among those criticising people for making assumptions

One man replied saying he thought it was a far conclusion to draw because his wife 'looks way younger'

One man replied saying he thought it was a far conclusion to draw because his wife ‘looks way younger’

But Gay hit back saying she thought those making the assumptions were racist

But Gay hit back saying she thought those making the assumptions were racist

Writer Maria Chong also pointed out that Jung-a Kim was the children's mother

Writer Maria Chong also pointed out that Jung-a Kim was the children’s mother

Another writer, Maria Chong, also criticised those who made the assumption, tweeting: ‘1) It’s his wife, not a nanny or maid. 2) She has a name, Jung-a Kim. 3) Cute kids 4) Life happens’, followed by a series of crying-with-laughter emojis.

Journalist Ashitha Nagesh also tweeted: ‘CAN EVERYONE PLEASE STOP ASSUMING THE WOMAN IN THAT BBC VIDEO IS THE NANNY, SHE IS HIS WIFE (sorry for the all caps) #stopbeingracist.’

Roxie Cooper tweeted: ‘Why is everyone assuming the woman in that hilarious BBC video is a nanny? Why isn’t it his wife?’

And Thomas Castle said: ‘That is Robert’s wife, not his nanny. I find it curious so many people assume she’s a nanny.’

Following the incident a hashtag, #notthenanny, started trending on Twitter, and other mothers – some of children of dual heritage – shared their own experiences of being mistaken for a nanny, with some tweeting pictures of themselves and their children.

People have also stepped in to share their own stories about people making assumptions based on race.

Helier Chung, writing on the BBC website said: ‘Some families in South Korea do hire nannies – especially if both parents work long hours.

‘But many people feel the assumption that Ms Kim was a helper, rather than the children’s mother, was grounded in racial stereotypes about the roles played by Asian women.

‘Conscious – or unconscious bias, does happen sometimes.

‘When I was at university in London, most people I met assumed that I (as a British Chinese student) was studying either medicine or economics – when I was actually studying English literature.

‘It was a little annoying, but not a huge deal. But sometimes assumptions can be more hurtful.’

While UK couple Tiffany Wong and Jonathan Smith, told the BBC they have experienced discrimination from strangers in the past.

‘We have had people shout stuff at us – once, when we were walking down the street, a guy yelled ‘it’s so sad you’re going with an Asian girl’ to John,’ Tiffany said.

While Jonathan added: ‘When I mention my fiancee at work, people normally just assume she’s Caucasian, and they might be surprised to learn she’s not. It’s not offensive – it’s just that their first thought is that you date someone from your own race.’

The children’s grandmother Ellen Kelly, who lives in, Ohio, told DailyMail.com that the children may have thought they were Skyping their grandparents.

Mrs Kelly, the professor’s mother, said she and her husband Joseph usually Skype with Robert, his wife Jung-a Kim and the two children from the same place as he was carrying out the BBC interview.

‘Robert usually Skypes with us from his home office, which is where he did the interview.

‘The kids probably heard voices coming from the computer and assumed it was us,’ she said laughing. ‘It was just hilarious’.

Ellen Kelly, 72, with her husband, Joseph, spoke to DailyMail.com and said she could be the reason behind the gaffe. She said that she regularly Skypes with the children and that 'the kids probably heard voices coming from the computer and assumed it was grandma'

Ellen Kelly, 72, with her husband, Joseph, spoke to DailyMail.com and said she could be the reason behind the gaffe. She said that she regularly Skypes with the children and that ‘the kids probably heard voices coming from the computer and assumed it was grandma’