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Viral 'BBC Dad' Returns To Discuss Working From Home: 'Just Really, Really Tough'

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Who better to discuss the challenge of working from home while raising kids than the parents who became an Internet sensation when their two children adorably invaded a live BBC TV interview?

Professor Robert Kelly, who became known as "BBC Dad" in 2017, was back on the air Thursday, along with his wife, Kim Jung-A, and their children Marion and James, giving the world a fresh glimpse of the kids who were last seen upending a somber discussion about South Korean politics.

The youngsters turned in a bravura performance, squirming as the adults talked and alternately hugging their parents and mugging for the camera. The interview ended, as it must, soon after the door to Kelly's office was flung open.

"Excited about being on telly," BBC News anchor David Eades said as the kids got busy. "That's not the first time."

"Right," Kelly replied.

The family's appearance again became a hit on social media, where people celebrated a bit of uplifting news amid coronavirus fears and remarked on how things have changed in the era of social distancing.

"We are all Robert Kelly now," one commenter said of a video of the BBC segment.

The family still lives in Busan, South Korea. Like millions of people around the world, they've been coping with new limits on where they can go and what they can do.

When asked how they are dealing with the isolation, Kim said, "It's very difficult to stay in the house for a long time."

South Korea was never under a national lockdown, instead asking people to stay in their homes and not to congregate. It has now lifted some of the strictest guidelines. But their children's visits to a local playground still include attempts to stay away from other people, Kim said.

"A couple times a week, we hike a hill," Kim added. "This is spring season in Korea, so we try to go see the flowers and trees — and they can shout and scream."

South Korea has emerged as a role model for dealing with the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country currently has more than 9,000 coronavirus cases, but the rate of new cases has not skyrocketed as it has in other countries, and more than 4,000 people have recovered from the deadly respiratory illness.

"I think South Koreans have actually dealt with it really well," Kelly said of how regular citizens responded to the crisis. "I think social compliance here has been pretty high. You don't see the kind of stuff that you've seen in the United States, with like people crowding beaches and people refusing to stay off the subways and stuff like that. South Koreans have actually really responded really well, and that's why the curve has flattened now to only 100 a day. So it's actually been pretty successful."

As Kelly spoke, his son struggled to free himself from Kim's lap; his daughter also grew restless — signs that perhaps the interview had gone on for long enough.

"Sorry, my kids are ... " Kelly trailed off, as his son opened the door to leave the office.

"No, no," the BBC's Eades replied. "That's one thing you can never apologize for now. It's part of the scene."

"There he goes!" Kelly said.

After the family became famous three years ago, Kelly said they received many messages from other people, especially parents, who identified with the depiction of family mingling with work, in equal parts cute and disruptive.

"Parents in particular saw themselves in our shoes, struggling to balance work and life," Kelly wrote.

As the coronavirus crisis forced officials around the world to close schools and order isolation, lockdowns and quarantines, Kelly recently called for employers to cut their workers some slack.

"This is what happens when I sit down at my desk now to try to work," Kelly said via Twitter, posting a photo of his pajama-clad son perched on his shoulders. "It is basically impossible for me to work now. Be kind to your employees with kids. After two weeks penned up in the house, those kids are gonna be climbing the walls."

As Kelly told the BBC Thursday, "It's just really, really tough."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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