The Return of Superman (TROS) was recommended to me by a Korean-crazed friend. She recommended watching the Song triplets to unwind. I was a little apprehensive because I am not really into Korean shows. Being that I have nothing better to do for the day, I decided to click on the link shared by my friend to check on what my friend is raving about. I am into babies and toddlers but I am not so sure about watching an entire show dedicated to them. I guess I was wrong.
I began with just one episode. At first, I couldn’t even get all the kids’ names. I am not also familiar with who the fathers are. The Return of Superman is a reality show where celebrity fathers take care of their children without anyone’s assistance, including their wives. Basically, the fathers, or appas, are left for 48-hours to their own devices, looking after their children. They are free to do what they want but the important aim is for the appas to bond with their children.
The show’s concept is quite unique. As history has taught us, it has always been the mother’s role to take care of the children while the father earns for the family. Asian family structure has always been patriarchal. This structure is still prevalent in today’s society, including modern Korean society. As a result, children grow distant from their fathers. Fathers are symbols of strength so much so that they are feared by their own children. This is probably the reason why the show was conceived – to bridge the widening gap between the fathers and the children.
When I watched the episode my friend sent me, I was immediately won over by the Song Triplets, Daehan, Minguk and Manse. During this particular episode, their father, Song Ilkook enlisted them to the children military education where they get to experience different military routines along with other children. I am simply drawn into the triplets, their cuteness and their energy.
Unfortunately, by the time I began watching TROS, the triplets have already left the show. Thankfully, KBS started running triplets special episodes, which I delved in. To be honest, I didn’t have any iota on who Ilkook was until I researched further. I was utterly surprised to learn that he played the titular role Jumong, a hit Korean series in the Philippines. It was such a hit that some children born during the time it aired were named Jumong.
Song Ilkook married High Court judge Jung Seung-yeon on March 15, 2008. The couple welcomed the triplets a day after celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary (March 16, 2012). They named their children Daehan, Minguk, Manse which when translated means “Long Live the Republic of Korea.” It was on July 6, 2014 when they joined the show.
I simply adored the triplets and I liked how they grew with every episode. Each of the triplets has his own personality. The eldest, Daehan, was more timid and more soft spoken. He is also the most pro-father, and takes care of him and his his younger brothers. Middle child Minguk is the most talkative and the cutest. Each of the triplets is equally intelligent but Minguk has it in spades. The last child, Manse, is the most free spirited. He is the most social and the one liked by most.
I was first enamored with Minguk because of his cuteness and his intelligence. He can identify all dinosaurs! But as I watched more, I became more fond of Daehan. He used to have lesser exposure compared to Minguk and Manse but I began to warm up to him when I learned more about him. When they were in their mother’s womb, he was the one who protected his younger brothers (dongsaengs). When they were growing, he had to take back seat because his dongsaengs needed more caring and attention. Even Ilkook admits that Daehan was the most left out. Because of this, their father wanted Minguk and Manse to respect their older brother (hyung).
I didn’t immediately warm up to Manse because of his free-spiritedness. Whereas his brothers can clear their plates, he had to be helped. Needless to say, he is cute but he is high maintenance. But then I began seeing a different side of Manse. When they met Lee Donggook’s family, Manse was the one who looked after the solitary Daebak while his hyungs were busy playing with Seola and Sua. Manse, although he doesn’t always show it, has a tender heart.
For weeks, the triplets were literally my happy pill. There laughter and their smiles uplifted my waning spirits. They were just in time because when I began watching them, I felt the grips of my old demons pulling me down again into the deep abyss. I was in an abject sense of confusion and senselessness but the triplets, and their father made things better. There were times that I just didn’t find any reasons to get up but when I think of them, I am overtaken by a renewed vigor.
I have fallen in love with the triplets that I began referring to them as my kids. It would be beyond cool if I get to meet them one day. However, there was one presence that I also admired, their father. Ilkook’s patience and energy level is nothing short of commendable. He is already in his mid-40s but yet he is able to cope with his young children’s hyperactivity.
Aside from his energy, I also liked how he treated his children fairly. He applied discipline regardless of whether they are in front of the cameras or behind it. When they were in Lee Hwijae’s house, he had to discipline his misbehaving boys. He explained later that discipline should be consistent, even when it is in the presence of other people. In this manner, discipline is inculcated into the minds of the children.
But above all, I admire Ilkook for making his children experience as much of life as they could. They joined a boat making contest. They went to learn at the Folk Village. They studied in the etiquette school with the scary headmaster. They experienced the military. They recorded in the music studio. They swam with the dolphins. And they enjoyed eating, a lot! Indeed, there was never a dull moment with the triplets and their father.
Perhaps the scene that made the most impact on me was when Ilkook and his kids joined a triathlon. I can’t help but be emotional seeing tears flow from their appa’s eyes as he dashed towards the finish line where his kids were waiting for him. He has already won me over with his other acts but the triathlon made me admire Ilkook even further. To me, he is the ultimate father goals. I just hope that I could accomplish even just half of what Ilkook did with his triplets. Seeing Ilkook make it look easy looking after a set triplets made me really want to have one of my own.
Oh Daehan, Minguk, Manse, saranghae 🙂 I hope you all grow well and healthy. Appa Song, you are doing an incredible job and so is their omma.
I stopped watching TROS when the triplets exited the show. But when I saw clips of TROS’ fourth anniversary special, I began watching the other episodes. My heart was won over by the hyperactive Ko Seungjae and his polar opposite, Lee Sian. Looking after the triplets, Seungjae and Sian would be the ultimate dream.
In the meantime, I will just revel in the kids’ cuteness. 🙂
Disclaimer: All pictures are not mine. They are screen grabs from KBS.