The family behind the viral BBC interview speak out about it

Publish Date
Wednesday, 15 March 2017, 8:34AM

Near the end of a long day of radio and TV appearances from home, Robert Kelly, an expert on East Asian affairs, prepared for another live video interview at 7 p.m.

As he prepared for the interview, he forgot to lock the door which led to one of the most viral videos this year featuring cameo appearances by his wife and two young children. 

“It’s a comedy of errors,” Mr. Kelly said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

As Mr Kelly's appearance began on BBC, his wife, Kim Jung-A, was with their two children in the living room, watching it. She was even videoing the TV screen on her phone to ensure she had a copy of the clip. 

They had ordered in pizza so they could follow news updates closely, and because of Mr. Kelly’s back-to-back media appearances. He dressed smartly, in a jacket and tie, but more comfortable jeans out of camera shot.

As the interview began, the couple’s 4-year-old daughter Marion jumped up and down at the sight of her father on the screen.

She was in a good mood after attending a birthday party earlier that day at kindergarten, her father told The Wall Street Journal. 

8-month-old James soon followed suit in his baby walker. Ms Kim was still concentrating on the screen, filming her husband. 

And then, boom, there she was in the same room as her dad. 

“As soon as she opened the door I saw her image on my screen,” Mr. Kelly told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr Kelly smiled and tried to ride it out. He thought the BBC might cut away to other footage or try to narrow the camera angle.

It didn’t, and as Marion sat down, James was making his entrance. As Mr. Kelly began to answer a question about inter-Korean relations, James glided across the room behind him.

“Then I knew it was over,” Mr. Kelly said.

Ms Kim then slid across the floor like a ninja, trying to round up the children. She says the delay on the TV feed she was watching meant she didn’t see the children in the room for a few seconds. 

Problematic live interviews can have potential negative career consequences for those involved. Mr. Kelly and his wife immediately feared the worst, assuming that he wouldn’t be contacted again to appear on TV.

“We said to each other, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ ” Mr. Kelly, said, adding the blame was entirely on him for not locking the door.

He immediately wrote to the BBC to apologise but within 15 minutes the broadcaster asked if it could put a clip of the interview on the internet. The couple initially declined, feeling uncomfortable that people might laugh at their children. But they were eventually persuaded that the video would show they were just a regular family.

The couple spent most of the next day trying to work out how to handle the attention. They were getting offers from major U.S. TV networks and media. Some journalists tracked down Mr Kelly's parents to ask them about it.

“We stonewalled because we didn’t know what to do,” Mr. Kelly said. 

Mr. Kelly describes his reaction as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could... It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.”

“Yes I was mortified, but I also want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me,” Mr. Kelly said.

“I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous.”