[OUTLOOK]Every father’s hidden daughterThe allegation that former President Kim Dae-jung has a “secret daughter” is currently the talk of the town. Of course, there are those who are suspicious about why this story is suddenly being brought up now, and those who claim that even though Mr. Kim is a public figure, his privacy should be respected. Then there are those who say that the real problem, allegedly, is that government organizations were used to keep a powerful man’s secrets hidden.
This is not the first time that a story has surfaced about someone in power having a secret child. Let’s consider an example in another country. Some time ago, Mazarine Pingeot, a daughter of former French President Francois Mitterrand by an extramarital affair, caused a huge stir when she published a book about the 19 years she’d spent with her father.
When Mr. Mitterrand became president, Ms. Pingeot, now 30, was six years old. During his 14 years in office, Mr. Mitterand apparently spent most of his after-work hours not at the presidential residence, the Elysee Palace, but in a Paris apartment with the girl and her mother.
“After breakfast, my mother, who was a curator at a museum, used to ride a bicycle to work, my father would drive to the Elysee Palace in his car, and I went to school,” Ms. Pingeot writes.
Though few would praise Mr. Mitterand for this aspect of his life, Ms. Pingeot’s account shows him to be a bold man, and a person of human feeling. At least he tried to be a father to his daughter, even though he was not able to tell the truth about her in public.
His daughter lived in hiding for two decades, until Mr. Mitterand’s funeral in 1996, when her identity was revealed. Before then, of course, he had had to keep her mouth shut about who her father was. That is why she titled her recent book “Bouche Cousue,” which means “Keeping Silent.”
Not surprisingly, the psychological pain Ms. Pingeot’s situation caused her was quite harsh. “Whenever I was out in the street with my father, or ate dinner with him at a restaurant, my father was happy, but I was extremely scared,” she writes.
But even though they had to avoid the public eye, Mazarine grew up knowing her father’s kiss, his warm eyes and the soft touch of his hand when he patted her head.
That is why she established an organization called Friends of Francois Mitterrand after her father’s death, and why she is putting all her energy into protecting his political legacy, just as he asked her to. It is a heartbreaking, but beautiful, father-daughter relationship.
To be honest, my first thoughts when I heard about President Kim’s daughter, before even considering whether the story was true, were of my relationship with my own daughter.
Of course, I do not keep her existence a secret. But I thought about myself, and wondered how good a father I have actually been to her.
I took down a book that I’d read some time ago, by a writer named Gregory E. Lang. It’s called “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad: A Hundred Reasons.” One passage in this book left a mark in my heart. “A daughter needs a dad who stops what he is doing just to take a look at her and tell her what a special person she is.”
I wonder: Have I ever stopped, while doing my work, to take a look at my daughter? Haven’t I missed special moments, thinking that I’d spend time with her when I was done with whatever I was doing?
Haven’t I missed many opportunities to let her know how special she is? My daughter was not a hidden child, but perhaps I have hidden from her myself, with the excuse of some trivial work I had to do.
I have no intention of criticizing anyone about a “secret child,” even assuming that the story is true. Instead, I accept this sad story as a mirror, and I think about the ways I have failed my own daughter, who is not a hidden child at all.
It is true: Every daughter needs a dad. So let’s stop what we are doing now to look at them. Let’s kiss and hold them, if they are nearby, and call or send text messages if they are far away. Let’s be the unique dad, the one who couldn’t be replaced by anything else. At least once.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong