Professor in viral BBC interview says he's happy his family blooper brought so much laughter

Unlikely internet celebrity Professor Robert Kelley recounts the moment his young children stormed in on an interview with the BBC, which has now been viewed tens of millions of times online.
Pusan National University professor Robert Kelly with his wife Kim Jung A, daughter Marion and son James, speaking at a press conference in Busan on March 15, 2017.
Pusan National University professor Robert Kelly with his wife Kim Jung A, daughter Marion and son James, speaking at a press conference in Busan on March 15, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
Professor Robert Kelly, his wife Kim Jung A and children Marion and James (in carrier) posing at Pusan National University in Busan on March 15, 2017.
Professor Robert Kelly, his wife Kim Jung A and children Marion and James (in carrier) posing at Pusan National University in Busan on March 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA (REUTERS, AFP) - The man at the centre of a viral BBC interview who was unceremoniously interrupted live on air by his children told a news conference in South Korea on Wednesday (March 15) he was flattered by the many "gentle sentiments" his family had received after millions watched the video online.

American associate professor Robert Kelly at Pusan National University in South Korea, was speaking to the BBC via Skype about the impeachment of President Park Geun Hye, when his daughter marched confidently into his home office.

His nine-month-old son, James, slipped in shortly afterwards in a baby walker, followed by his wife Kim Jung A, who dramatically chased and expertly extracted both children as Prof Kelly tried to maintain his on-camera composure.

"We are just a regular family and raising two young children can be a lot of work," Prof Kelly said during a press conference held at the university.

"We love our children very much, and we are happy that our family blooper - our family error on television - brought so much laughter to so many people."

Prof Kelly's four-year-old daughter Marion, who captured the Internet's attention with her bright yellow top and confident swagger, sat beside Prof Kelly during the news conference. Ms Kim held baby James in her lap.

 
 

In a follow-up interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Prof Kelly said he could see a mirror image of the room on his video screen as Marion walked through the door behind him.

"I was hoping that maybe my daughter might sit down and read a book or something, even for thirty seconds until we could just cut the interview, but once my son came in on the little roller, then it was sort of... then there was nothing I could do," he told the BBC.

The video was widely shared on social media, with the majority of comments expressing amusement over the incident. One version of the video on a BBC Facebook page had over 86 million views as of Wednesday.

Prof Kelly, who is an expert on North and South Korea and makes regular international media appearances, said he and his family had been “buried under phone calls, messages and Twitter”.

“I’m so through with this that I’m not even reading the websites anymore. There are also think pieces on this too that I have given up trying to read,” he said. 

Asked if, with hindsight, he would have refused the BBC permission to upload the footage to its Facebook page, he said: “If I could have prevented the recording altogether from going on the Internet, yes.” 

The video had triggered accusations of discrimination in South Korea and elsewhere after some online posters overseas immediately assumed that Prof Kelly’s wife was a nanny.

But Prof Kelly’s wife shrugged off the discriminatory comments, urging viewers to take the video positively, and expressed hopes that it could bring about change. “There are a lot of multicultural families in the world and I hope that this could be an opportunity to change people’s perception,” Ms Kim said.

Prof Kelly, who was born in the US and studied at Ohio State University, also said he hoped the light-heartedness of the video would not harm him professionally.

"I'm BBC Dad for a while so, I hope that people will still read my work," he said. "If we're still talking about this in six months, then I'll be quite uncomfortable."

The family were now looking to move on from their instant fame and return to their daily lives, he added.