[TV review]Touching documentary opened my eyes

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[TV review]Touching documentary opened my eyes

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Kim Jae-cheol, left, with his son at home, where he both earns and cooks the bacon. [KBS-TV]

When I was a pubescent student at a foreign language high school, I used to complain bitterly about being born in a family that was not wealthy enough to send me to the United States to study. Back then, it was painful to see classmates who happened to be born under lucky stars and had lived in English-speaking countries, thanks to their parents.
As a Korean-Korean who happened to be in love with foreign languages, especially English, the world seemed immensely unfair.
I am still an immature person in many ways, but back then, my juvenile nature made me complain out loud to my parents. They did not say a word to defend themselves, although they had done nothing wrong, and I am afraid I left wounds that remain unhealed somewhere deep in their hearts. I have now grown up enough to appreciate the parents who taught me to love foreign languages in the first place. I also learned to appreciate my mother, who hums Frank Sinatra’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and my father, who often comments on my articles.
It took me a lot of time to accept the fact that life can be both unfair and fabulous at the same time, thanks to the precious people around me, like my parents. They are the ones who gave me life, and I was infantile enough to complain that they didn’t send me to a foreign country. I grew even more ashamed while watching a KBS-TV documentary, “Donghaeng,” or “Going Together,” which looks into the lives of the have-nots in this society. The economic divide between the haves and have-nots is growing in Korea, and KBS-TV producers decided to arouse attention by taking cameras into the lives of the have-nots, who are short on money yet rich in affection for family members.
Airing Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. on KBS2-TV, Going Together is a relatively young show that will soon air its seventh episode. It did not take long for this human-interest, in-depth documentary to touch the hearts of viewers. I became one when I turned on the television on a recent Thursday and saw a feature on Kim Jae-cheol, 52, who lives in Ulsan with his four small children. Kim is both breadwinner and housekeeper, in place of the wife who ran away years ago.
A construction worker with an unstable income, Kim says without an iota of hesitation that he is happy because he can be under the same roof as his four children. This has only been possible for one year because Kim previously sent the children to relatives’ houses due to financial difficulties.
Now he says he feels absolute happiness when he wakes up at 4 a.m. to cook breakfast and watch his sons and daughters growing an inch at a time. I was also amazed by the children, especially the oldest daughter, Nam-gyeong. Although she is only 12, she appears mature and grown up, helping her father and younger siblings.
Nam-gyeong tasted the bitterness of life all too early when she saw her mother run away before she became a teenager, but now she is mature enough to appreciate the happiness of living with her family.
She would never complain about not being able to go to an American high school or college with tuition fees high enough to buy an upscale apartment in Seoul’s posh southern district. Watching her wash the dishes, I felt like such a selfish person.
Other episodes of the show have been equally touching. The producers roam the country finding people like Kim and telling their stories. There is the 53-year-old newspaper delivery man in Seocheon, Chungcheong, and the street food vendor who hopes to help a daughter suffering from a brain disease obtain medical care.
I am not sure whether I will be able to watch the show every week because it could be emotionally overwhelming at times. But one thing for sure is that soon I will take my mother on her dream trip to Alaska and give my father a heartfelt “thank you” for bringing me into this world.


[sujiney@joongang.co.kr]
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