Dad, Where Are You Going? is a South Korean reality show where celebrity dads go on trips with their kids. Most of the trips are to rural villages or campsites, with the odd international trip. I first started watching it when it debuted in 2013. Since then, I watched for 2 years and I recently finished the last episode of season 2. The last episode had me bawling like a baby.
Aside from my personal preference to Korean television, I love kids. I work with kids and I find there is something very fulfilling and fun in watching them grow. When season 1 ended, I was amazed at how much the kids had matured and I couldn’t believe that I, a girl on the other side of the globe, had watched them for an entire year (yes, I felt a little weird). At the end of season 2, I was very touched by how the fathers had matured.
Dad, Where Are You Going? explores the identity of fathers and their relationships with their children. It gently prompts viewers to question: What is a father? What is a “good” father? Why are children afraid of their fathers more than their mothers? What can we do to change that?
Many times throughout the show, the kids prefer their mothers. Traveling alone with dad was “boring” or “scary”. Some of the kids even forwardly state that they are afraid of their fathers. This, of course, changes over the course of the show because the fathers bond with them. But this journey is a difficult one, especially for some of the fathers who are not good at expressing their feelings. I wonder why it is that mothers are portrayed to be gentle and loving but fathers are cold and unemotional.
It’s very interesting to see the different father-children pairs interact together. The dynamics are different for each pair and each pair influences each other. There are very affectionate fathers and there are very stern fathers. By participating in this program, all of them have the same goal in mind: to improve the relationship with his child. One father commented, “I don’t know how to be a father because I never had a father.”
Children get along with each other naturally and it’s heart-warming to see the older kids care of the younger ones. What was also great to see were the fathers becoming friends. Not only do I believe it is harder to make friends when you’re older, but these fathers share a bond and an experience that other friends may not.
This show makes me think of the road trips my father still takes my family on. It is a memory and tradition that I hold very dear to my heart. For me, happiness is sitting in the backseat of the family van with snacks and my sister singing loudly to the radio. It is a one-way road stretched to the limits of infinity with the sturdy backs of my parents in the front seat. As for my own father, I would never use “cold” or “stern” to describe him. Perhaps it has something to do with me being a daughter. I noticed that in the show, the fathers who brought their daughters to the trips were also more doting than the ones who brought sons.
For these kids and their celebrity fathers with their hectic work schedules, a road trip is a family luxury. Without the show, they would not have the memories they have today. And even more importantly, they may have never really understood their fathers until it was too late.
* For those who are also interested, The Return of Superman is another South Korean reality/variety show that features fathers taking care of their children without the mothers.