The father struggle“Cheer up, daddy. We are on your side.” With the support of their children, fathers go to work, stay late, get drunk and sell their souls. Fathers have to stay at work even if they are not promoted, are ordered to do tasks they don’t like, are reprimanded unjustly, and feel like their jobs are consuming them. “Because I am the father” may be the most powerful ideology in Korean society.
Mr. A has worked for the same company for 10 years since graduating from college. A few days after he moves to another company, he gets a call from a former coworker, who sounds upset. “Are you happy now that you sold your soul?” Mr. A is confused. He thinks to himself, “did I really sell my soul by moving to another company? I am not enjoying wealth and honor.” Mr. A wants to retort, but he keeps quiet. After having a drink, he puts on a fake smile and enters his house. He has to show a bright face to his child because he is the father.
Mr. B is an executive at a public corporation, but he is busy doing extra work. After an administration change, the CEO is likely to be replaced. But the CEO is not willing to step down. Mr. B feels his own neck is threatened as he is not favored by the CEO. So he joins forces with other colleagues to collect allegations about the CEO. They are now distributing the memo to powerful organizations. He asks friends of friends to spread the word. While he feels guilty, he has to protect his job because he is the father.
Mr. C is a corporate executive. At a meeting, the managing director is fretful and says, “Your breath smells like cigarette.” He regrets not brushing his teeth after smoking. He keeps his head down. Whenever he gets censured by the boss, he also has to deal with pitiful looks from his junior staff. He wants to resign several times a day, but he has to get over the embarrassing moment because he is the father.
Song Dong-seon used to be an editorial writer for a newspaper. After getting laid off, he gets divorced, and one of his sons dies. But he has to find a job to support his two remaining sons. He works odd jobs as a door-to-door salesman, a sewer pipe installation worker and a fisherman. In his autobiographical essay, “Because I am a father,” he wrote, “As I headed to the construction site, riding three different subway lines early in the morning to support my family, I saw the true faces of all the fathers in the world. We run to the work site at the break of day for the family, for the children.”
The hotel manager who had to keep quiet after getting slapped in the face by a confectionery company chairman and the franchise manager in his 50s who endured verbal abuse of a salesman in his 30s are not much different. So many men bite their tongues or sling mud because they are fathers. The film “Legendary Fists” shows that a father does whatever he can to make money even if he doesn’t like it.
Now, we are living on the sweat and tears of fathers, and the fathers of the fathers. It is about time for the rhetoric of “because I am the father” to evolve. If we try to understand the desperation of other fathers, the quality of life for our children may be different. If we can resist the temptations of bribery, alcohol and sex, our children will be living in a brighter world. The power comes from a collective endeavor of “because we are fathers,” rather than the individual effort of “because I am the father.”
Yesterday was Parents’ Day. I send my encouragement and support for all the fellow fathers, whose children’s laughter blows off the exhaustion of the day and makes them a happy prince. Also, I’d like to ask the customers, the owners, the presidents, and ministers not to abuse or trample on the desperate and sacred spirit of “because I am the father.”
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Suk-chun