South Korean dads go to school to learn ‘how to hug’

(Photo: Duranno Father School)

A school is looking to help improve the relationships Korean fathers form with their children.

The Father School is like a four-day retreat catering to Korean men of all ages, according to Public Radio International.

It’s comprised of four five-hour sessions packed with lessons and activities including one where students learn the proper ‘way to hug.’

Students are typically in their 20s and 30s but have been known to include men up in their 70s as well. One thing transcends the age groups, they all say they’re there because their wives signed them up.

“She basically signed up and said, this is the start date. Go ahead and go,” one man told PRI. “But I’m glad I did it. They had homework, you know, that I normally wouldn’t do. It gave me some insights.“

The school started in 1995 at the Duranno Bible College in Soeul with a mission to help ‘abusive, ineffective and absentee fathers’, according to the New York Times.

It spread to the U.S. in 2000 with lessons targeted more towards immigrant fathers whose children had become Americanized and wanting a family dynamic more in tune with what they were seeing on television, according to the NYT.

“Traditionally, in the Korean family, the father is very authoritarian,” a volunteer at the school told the Times. “They’re not emotionally linked with their children or their wife. They’re either workaholics, or they’re busy enjoying their own hobbies or social activities. Family always comes last.”

During one of the lessons, one man reportedly read out from a letter he’d written to his own father as a homework assignment.

“Our communication was lacking so much,” he read. “You expected so much from me, but I gave much more than you think. All your time was work, work, work… You really didn’t put much into family life.”

Lessons aren’t entirely focused on the relationship between father and child.

Fathers are also required to complete assignments like writing letters to their wives, including one listing 20 reasons why they love them, and, during their graduation ceremony, even surprise the women with a foot bath and massage, according to the Times.

One man told PRI, life had been harder than he expected since moving to America and his relationship with his wife had suffered because of it, “Living in a small apartment with children, unable to speak the language or find work, we grew tired and said more hurtful words than we intended.”

Father School now operates in more than 40 countries and has reportedly graduated more than 300,000 fathers from its programs.