While the rest of the world are raving about the oppas of K-Pop and K-Dramas, there are 1.5 million TikTok followers who are receiving good vibes from the funny, engaging, informative, and heartwarming short-form videos of Nick Cho (a.k.a. #yourkoreandad) over at TikTok.
Cho’s Twitter account reveals that he’s also the co-founder, co-CEO, and head barista of Wrecking Ball Coffee, a coffee bar that has been around in Washington DC since 2002. He also co-hosts a podcast for coffee professionals and enthusiasts at portafilter.net. So his professional life pretty much revolves around coffee.
But on TikTok, he talks about a lot of other stuff—from Air Jordans to scooters, golf to skateboards, kimchi fried rice to back-to-school shopping, and more. He starts off all his TikTok videos with “Hey, I’m your Korean dad” (the rising intonation does make a lot of difference when you say it), with an imaginary tap on your head.
Watching him makes you feel like a kid all over again as he shares stuff about his latest discoveries. (Ever heard of a green onion slicer? How about a Discord Server?). He also shares his more personal musings and daily life experiences. Every 15-minute TikTok video feels like spending quality time with your own dad, as Cho drives down to the Home Depot, or as he enjoys a meal at Taco Bell, or cooks vegan food at home, or tries out a new coffee brand, or donates blood, or gets a coronavirus test.
It’s fun to hear him talk to a non-Korean about the variations of the popular Korean heart gesture—the finger heart, the hand heart, and the arm heart. “Whichever one of those it is, it means ‘I love you,’” he says, still managing to look cool despite navigating the rather cheesy subject, and even in his messy-hair-don’t-care look.
Many kids post #duets (splitscreen videos) with #yourkoreandad to tell him about their day. One teenage girl talks about the first time she built a skateboard, and another about her recent trip to the hospital. “I told the nurse that I need to get to my phone because I need to contact my Korean dad. [The nurse] is super confused because I don’t look Korean at all,” the girl, who is white, shares, laughing.
While listening to the kids’ stories and rants already seems like doing a lot of good, Cho also goes out of his way to dish out helpful life advice. “You have to stop listening to discouragement,” he says in one video. “Don’t listen to any of it. It doesn’t matter who it’s coming from, especially when it’s coming from someone you rely on, and especially-especially when it’s coming from yourself.”
In another video, he talks about one eye-opening truth—how it’s totally okay to admit when you don’t feel strong and you need help. “Whether it’s our family, people in our community, or society, people are expecting us to be strong. Like if you can’t do it by yourself, there’s something wrong with you. This is a lie!” he points out emphatically. “If you can’t get things done on your own, great. But you know what? If you have to reach out to others for help, that’s great too, and in a lot of ways it’s better. Asking for help, reaching out to others, every time that takes courage. Sometimes taking stuff on all by yourself, it’s actually because of fear. For all those times you’re asking for help, I’m so proud of you.”
It does make a lot of difference to know there’s a dad who listens to you. In one touching message, he reassures his viewers that he watches every duet they upload, and leaves a word of affirmation that it’s okay to show emotion. “It’s a good thing to share that with others. I see you out there, taking care of yourself in this way. And to some degree, letting me and others in the community take care of you a little bit, too. Keep ‘em coming, and I’m here for you.”