For many ‘wild goose dads,’ flying solo can be difficultMen living separately from their families account for 17 percent of all single-person households, and Statistics Korea projects that this group account for 27.3 percent by 2035.
It was in 2007 when comedian Lee Sang-woon, 53, became a gireogi father - also known in Korea as a “wild goose dad,” a man who sends his family to live abroad while he stays and works in Korea.
At first, he was proud that his children were receiving education in an advanced country, but he soon began to experience a myriad of health problems, including gallstones. “I did not know my body was cracking because I had to earn money for my family,” he said.
Lee begins every day with exercise, a measure not just to treat his body, but also his loneliness. In the afternoon, he meets his acquaintances or performs at events, one of the ways in which he earns money. When he was more popular, he used to turn down gigs in other regions of the country, but he now goes anywhere he’s wanted because he feels the pressure to provide for his family.
“The freedom that comes with being a gireogi father only lasts about a week,” Lee said. “In most cases, the fathers end up getting sick like me because of irregular eating habits and psychological pressure.”
But he endures for his children. His son, who was attending college in the United States, joined the Army earlier this year.
Whenever life gets too hard, Lee looks at a photograph of his son in uniform.
“I cannot collapse or give up, because my son will collapse, too, if I collapse,” he said.
BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM