Take a gander at the goose father’s riseSince the mid-1990s, Korean families facing the rising cost of tuition and an increasingly competitive education environment have sent their children to institutions overseas in order to give them an edge through fluency in English and a Western pedigree.
Recognizing that underage students need the stability of living with family, the mothers often accompany their children overseas, sometimes for the duration of their primary or secondary school years, leaving the fathers to stay in Korea and work.
This phenomenon produced a new generation of gireogi, or goose, fathers who fly overseas to visit the family for summer or winter vacations.
The number of such families peaked in 2006, when around 30,000 elementary, middle and high school students were studying abroad. The figure has since declined due to improvements in foreign-language education in Korea and an increase in satellite schools from foreign countries opening their doors in Korea.
The trend has also produced negative results, the most disturbing of which sees such families break apart because of the strain on the marriage that arises when the wife is left to raise a child by herself and the husband becomes detached from the daily lives of his wife and children.
The fathers, meanwhile, often have trouble communicating with children who are more comfortable speaking in the foreign language of their adopted country than they do in Korean. In the worst case scenario, the parents get divorced and the children stop communicating with their parents.
The children face other problems. Many of the young people educated in countries such as the United States, Canada, England and Australia end up staying, while those who return face the difficulty of language reacquisition or adapting to corporate culture.
Meanwhile, the trend has produced related terms based on how frequently the fathers can travel to see the family overseas.
Fathers who are affluent enough to fly overseas are frequently called eagle dads, as eagles are often described as the king of the bird species. Fathers who never get to visit the family - even during major family holidays such as Chuseok, Korea’s harvest holiday, or Seollal, Lunar New Year - are called penguin dads after the birds that cannot fly.
By Lee Sun-min