Tuesday, June 04, 2013


‘Giroegi Appa’: Modern Day Hero

“Wars come and go, but my soldiers stay eternal.” – Tupac Shakur

Carl Mydans—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
   We have all seen how the war torn apart Korea over the past decades. We have seen how soldiers fought and conquered all the battles until their last breath to bring peace and harmony not only for their family but for the whole country. We have seen all sons of Korea trained and experienced mandatory military service. They faced it all wholeheartedly and bravely for their mother land. Today, modern day Korean men were facing another battle in life. They are fighting not in battlefield but in society, not with weapons and battle gear but with hopes and dreams. In the midst of sickness and loneliness, they strive hard to meet their goals and provide a better life for their loved ones.

South Korea’s government today is not only busy branding their country but also serious in shaping their future society. Korea is one of the leaders in economy, technology, education, and transportation, and maybe to be the next ‘English speaking country’ was not on their list but if the country’s current rate of English students in and out of the country continues, there’s a possibility that they would be in the near future.

I admire Koreans for their endless thirst for excellence and their continuous pursuit of English education.  They have this curiosity for what is beyond the horizon .That is why to have better English education, Koreans sent their children together with the mother to English speaking country while the father was left in Korea to work as hard as he can, living alone, to finance the living and children’s education expenses abroad.  Everyday more and more Korean families were separated, living apart, to learn this universal and hegemonic language called - English. Parents, mostly fathers sacrificed themselves to give their children better education and more advantages in life and this where the battle of Korean men begun. 

This phenomenon form the term - Giroegi Appa (Romanization of 기러기 아빠) which literally means “goose dad”, inspired by an iconic bird, Giroegi. It has a natural devotion on its partner and its offspring, Korean fathers showed their absolute and unconditional love by staying in their homeland for the sake of bright future of their children. Their main destinations of studying English are United States, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and recently Philippines.
Like migratory wild geese, these geese dads only visit their families during holidays, because frequent visit and travel expenses would be expensive.
image by www.thepowerofintroverts.com
But is it really worth it? What has forced to these loving fathers to be on this state that so lonely and miserable?

Like the life of a soldier they spent many months sometimes years away from their loved ones, instead of long hours of drill, marching on hot, dusty roads or in a driving rainstorm, modern day father work round the clock, like in war they often had inadequate food, since no wife to cook for them, like in battle field they get sick or disease, they face illnesses alone. These fathers have to endure the following hardships and risks in order to fulfill the dreams of his family.  

If there were long stretches of boredom in camp interspersed with moments of sheer terror experienced on the battlefield there's also boredom in living in solitude for being a Giroegi Appa and add the terror of these risks :

-                Risk of weakening husband and wife relationship
-                Risk of children not being guided properly
-                Risk of creating gaps between the father and children        
I have to pause for a minute to remember that these fathers give up so much to make sure their families have everything they need to have a good life - just like so many soldiers did in history. Making paycheck stretched beyond its limit to make sure that, aside from tuition fees, basic needs like food and shelter are met.

Fathers who sacrifice time with their kids and miss seeing their kids growing up and just spending their days providing a roof over their heads and food on their plates, for their family in the other side of the planet, in their heart, these heroes always knows that their ultimate role is to shield their children from pain, and stop at nothing to make sure their dreams come true.

A nation where competition is high and inevitable, where social status, education and reputation are highly valued, the English language almost became the society’s standard, and prerequisite for everything, school, work, and even partner in life. In short, education is highly valued as the path to status, money and success. Korea has come so far yet they still have a long way to go.

Honoring dead heroes is not a hard thing to do. Keeping the ones that are alive from dying is much more difficult. Keeping them from losing morale during this battle is what the government needs to do.  Let not the sacrifices of all these countrymen be in vain.

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