S. Korean "goose fathers" so lonely they keep flies

Thu May 17, 2012 7:12am EDT
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By Jin Kyu Kang

SEOUL (Reuters) - Unlike his colleagues at a Korean city office, Choi Chang-young dreads the end of each workday, when he is forced to return to his empty, echoing house.

"I feel a deep sense of loneliness since neither my wife nor my kids are waiting for me," the 45-year-old administrator said of his home in the city of Cheongju, 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Seoul. "There is only total darkness."

Choi is one of a growing legion of Korean fathers who send their families overseas when the children hit their teens, hoping to help them both escape the pressure-cooker South Korean educational system and learn English - which will help them get better higher education, and better jobs.

The wives go along with the children, leaving the fathers - known as "goose fathers" in local slang - behind to work and finance the whole venture.

"I sent my two sons, one in 9th grade and the other in 6th grade now, to Michigan with my wife last year," Choi said.

"I wanted them to enjoy their school years, experiencing a variety of things instead of cramming for exams throughout the year, which is what most students do here."

The "goose father" nickname refers to the seasonal visits made by the fathers to their faraway families, the way geese migrate every year. "Eagle fathers" are men wealthy enough to visit at will, while "penguin fathers" have no idea when the next reunion will take place.

The trend of families separating like this for education emerged in the late 1990s, with a growing desire to learn English and escape the relentless competitiveness of the domestic education system.   Continued...