In reality, Nick Cho only has two children but thanks to the power of the internet, he is everyone’s Korean dad.
Cho, a 47-year-old Bay Area coffee entrepreneur, has become a TikTok sensation for his viral videos as “Your Korean Dad."
The father of two teen girls has been on the platform for a little over a year and seen huge success. Most of his videos are clips of him doing relatively ordinary things like going to Costco or making a coffee and talking to his audience.
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It’s struck such a chord that he has more than 1.5 million followers on the platform, regularly getting messages like “I just cried and cried and I don’t know why,” he says.
“There’s a lot of this I can’t explain,” he chuckled in an interview with TODAY. “It’s not like I had this master plan and it’s all playing out.”
He explained he just had this “nugget of an idea” that has taken off like wildfire.
“I’m just trying to listen and understand. At the end of the day, I’m just being myself — trying to be my best self — and offer up what I have to offer,” he added.
A longtime advocate for social justice issues, Cho says he’s hoping to use his platform to “speak to people in ways … that are impactful.”
He says he’s long known he wants to make the world a better place. His coffee company Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, for example, works only with sustainably sourced specialty coffee.
“We were working on building a coffee company that is really meant to meet people’s needs ... especially as it pertains to racial diversity,” he explained. But with his newfound fame, he’s hoping people hear his message online as well.
“Sometimes conditions can change,” he said. “And in that way, I think people sense that what I’m doing is coming from a place that is very thought out and coming from my heart.”
He hopes the authentic way he presents himself on social media inspires others to do the same and take a stand.
“Say it in your own words, don’t just say ‘Black lives matter’ — what do these things really mean?” he explained, encouraging people to present issues thoughtfully. “That way people can understand, that they really understand these issues and can speak to it in a meaningful kind of way.”
He’s hopeful about the future of the country — and the positive comments on his social media seem to indicate many others are as well — but agrees that “in a lot of ways, we’re stuck in the mud.”
His “Korean Dad” portrayal is intentionally not stereotypical of the tropes many Americans are used to seeing on television or in movies.
“The media portrayal tends to be like, the brochure version,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh, Mexicans eat tacos for every meal but in the mornings they have breakfast tacos!’”
He added he hopes his content will subvert those stereotypes and just “be a nice dad who happens to be Korean American.”
“It’s less about being the perfect dad or whatever, it’s more like little snapshots and lessons that ultimately when you put it together ... helps heal a lot of the hurt and helps people treat each other better,” he said.