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Dr. Oh, ‘the God of Parenting,’ Will See You Now. On Television.

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SEOUL — Appointment day was finally here. The parents had waited for a month to see the renowned psychiatrist in South Korea about their child’s issues. They entered the room, the doctor arrived, and the door closed.

Then the teleprompters turned on, the cameras started rolling, and the producer shouted, “Action!”

So began the taping of “My Golden Kids,” one of the most popular reality shows in South Korea. Reigning over the episode was Dr. Oh Eun-young, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry who has been called the “god of parenting.”

Her mantra: “There is no problem child, only problems in parenting.”

In a country where celebrity is often personified by young megastars churned out by an exacting entertainment industry, Dr. Oh, 57, occupies a singular cultural place. She draws millions of viewers on television and the internet, dispensing advice on parenting and marriage.

Through a portfolio of shows — and books, videos and lectures — she has redefined therapy for Koreans, blown up the traditionally private relationship between doctor and patient and introduced the nation to accessible vocabulary on mental health issues.

“She is the mother that you wish that you would have had in your childhood,” said Dr. Yesie Yoon, a Korean American psychiatrist in New York who grew up watching Dr. Oh’s shows. “People really put their personal feelings toward popular figures in the media. And I feel like she’s serving a kind of good mother role to a lot of Korean people.”

Her success is all the more notable in a country where taboos about seeking mental health treatment have deep roots and getting therapy has traditionally been a furtive enterprise.

South Koreans attest to Dr. Oh’s role in destigmatizing psychiatric treatment, and the fact that some are willing to share their struggles on her shows is a watershed cultural moment. Practitioners in Dr. Oh’s field say it is becoming easier to persuade South Koreans to get therapy or take medication.

In South Korea, about one in four adults has reported having a mental disorder in his or her lifetime, with only one in 55 receiving treatment in 2021, according to the National Mental Health Center. (One in five American adults received mental health treatment in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) South Korea has among the world’s highest suicide rates; it was the fifth leading cause of death in 2020, the government says. Among people in their 20s, it accounted for 54 percent of deaths.

When Dr. Oh started her career as a medical doctor in 1996, many South Koreans associated mental illness with weakness, she said in an interview at a counseling center in the wealthy Seoul district of Gangnam. Some even believed that people could become mentally ill from studying psychiatry. Over the years, those attitudes have transformed.

“Compared to when I took my first steps as a doctor,” she said, “more people have realized that talking to a psychiatrist is something helpful — not something embarrassing at all.”

Dr. Yang Soyeong, a psychiatrist practicing in Seoul, agreed: “Parents can be afraid of having their mistakes pointed out by a psychiatrist. But because Dr. Oh does that so gently on television, I think that has lowered people’s apprehension for visiting the clinic.”

The United States has long made stars out of one-name medical personalities like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, who have drawn criticism for their tactics. Dr. Oh’s celebrity has also spilled out of the medical arena. In Seoul, a life-size cutout of her stands in front of a mobile phone dealership advertising the carrier’s family plans. She appears in TV commercials for a health insurance company.

Dr. Oh, who runs one hospital and four counseling centers, has been using TV as a therapeutic platform since 2005, when she started her broadcast career giving lectures about childhood developmental disorders.

On “My Child Has Changed,” which aired from 2005 to 2015, each episode was dedicated to a family’s problems. Dr. Oh entered their homes for counseling sessions, and the takeaway from many episodes was that a lot of children’s problems were caused by parental abuse, lack of understanding or negligence.

In a signature flourish of the show, Dr. Oh would dispose of every object the parents used to beat their children — back scratchers, umbrellas, shoehorns, broken chair legs.

When “My Golden Kids” launched in 2020, the pandemic, with its social restrictions, was forcing people to confront loved ones’ problems full on. Rather than visiting herself, Dr. Oh now sends a camera crew into homes to record what transpires; clips are aired when families discuss issues in the studio.

The problems shown have run the gamut: A 9-year-old yelling at his mother, a 5-year-old self-harming, a 12-year-old stealing from his mother, a 14-year-old having unexplained, chronic vomiting.

Even with a family’s consent, the in-home cameras can feel highly intrusive. But giving a doctor the chance to assess family interactions in real-life settings, not the confines of a psychiatrist’s office, has diagnostic advantages, experts say.

“It’s a child psychiatrist’s dream,” said Dr. Yoon, the New York psychiatrist. “In my clinic, I only address and discuss the things that they bring to me. I may ask questions to dig deeper that they may not answer, and they may not answer truthfully.”

The show illustrates how much work the parents do in following through with the doctor’s advice. It also shows how change can take time, and how old issues can resurface.

Since “My Golden Kids” began, Dr. Oh has expanded her TV empire to include “Oh Eun-young’s Report: Marriage Hell,” in which she counsels couples; and “Dr. Oh’s Golden Clinic,” in which she advises individuals. She says she has a plan to tackle the country’s low birthrate by easing people’s fear of having children. She also hopes to feature more Korean families who live abroad and encounter cultural and language barriers.

Dr. Oh was born premature, and she said the doctors were not sure she would survive. Until she was about 2, she was smaller than her peers and had a “difficult temperament”: picky with food, often sick and crying every night. She attributes her comfort with herself as an adult to her parents, saying she had “received a lot of love from them and felt understood by them.”

She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yonsei University’s College of Medicine, and a medical degree from Korea University’s College of Medicine. She married a doctor, and their son is in the military.

“We were all someone’s children at some point,” she said. “The point isn’t to blame parents for every problem but to emphasize that they are incredibly important figures in children’s lives.”

At a recent taping of “My Golden Kids,” a panel of comedians and celebrities appeared. They and Dr. Oh greeted the parents of a child who had refused to attend school for months. Video of the family’s home life was shown. The doctor then shared her recommendations.

She has critics. Lee Yoon-kyoung, 51, an activist for education reform and parental rights and the mother of two high school-age sons, worries that Dr. Oh’s celebrity might lead viewers to consider her words as gospel when there might be multiple interpretations of the same behavior.

“Of course, we acknowledge her expertise,” Ms. Lee said, “but some parents get a bit uncomfortable when people deem her opinions unconditionally true, as if her words were divine.”

Some viewers have questioned the wisdom, as well as the privacy implications, of putting yelling, hitting families on television. On “My Golden Kids,” Dr. Oh does not explicitly identify the children, but faces are not obscured, and parents state their own names and call their children by name.

Videos of episodes have been uploaded to YouTube, generating humiliating comments about the families. Comments have since been turned off. But some parents and mental health professionals, noting that the internet is forever, have demanded the show blur faces.

Dr. Oh says blurring could make it harder for people to empathize, inviting more abuse. Viewers, she said, should consider the problems televised as all part of the human experience. “The main reason I do these shows is that understanding children is the starting point of understanding people,” she said.

Ban Su-jin, a 42-year-old mother of three from Incheon, had privacy concerns when she appeared on “My Golden Kids” in 2020 to consult about a son who feared leaving the house.

“My husband was worried that my son’s friends would make fun of him for having this problem,” she said. But they agreed it was “worth risking anything.”

After the taping, she said, her son’s anxiety improved drastically. The episode drew some negative messages, Ms. Ban said, but also encouragement from friends and neighbors.

“The episode,” she said, “helped them understand how much pain my son had borne.”

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The Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week: Zendaya, the Biebers, Kendall Jenner, and More

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Among the many things we gave thanks for on Thursday are the best fashion instagrams of the week. We’re mostly kidding, but there were some stellar looks these past seven days. First up, was sun-drenched Zendaya, who posed in a sand-colored cropped cardi in front of, well, a dune. Perhaps, she is on the set of…Dune

Justin and Hailey Bieber headed to Japan to celebrate Mrs. Bieber’s birthday. The duo were dressed in their coziest clothes: Justin opted for a pale yellow sweatsuit with a beanie and hulking chain, while Hailey wore an oversized collar shirt with sweats. While it’s not a high fashion moment, we did learn that Justin has a cute nickname for his wife thanks to his love-packed caption: “bum bum”.

Kendall Jenner went the less clothed route in an outré way. Taking a mirror selfie, she wore a cozy black sweater, but in lieu of pants or a skirt, the model opted for a pair of black tights. An even bolder moment? Jenner stepped out in the look, which was captured by paparazzi. 

Finally, Devon Lee Carlson is putting her twist on the latest suiting craze. The phone case influencer wore a super polished ’90s-era suit with a cubicle-ready belt, but with a tiny playful colorful graphic T-shirt and red sneakers for a casual touch. Hire us, Carlson! 

Here, see the best fashion Instagrams of the week. 

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American Rituals

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Abiquiú, New Mexico

At the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, a remote abbey beside the Chama River in northern New Mexico, some two dozen Benedictine monks begin their days in darkness.

At 3:30 a.m. one Sunday this past winter, a bell summoned the monks to vigils, the night prayer. Under a clear sky full of stars, they made their way in silence from their cloister cells to an adobe chapel. Seated in wooden pews, the brothers, most in black habits, began chanting the first of 12 psalms. They used the ancient Gregorian melody, but with English words: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

The sky was still dark when a second bell rang, just before 6, calling the monks to the dawn prayer, lauds. Back in the chapel, now wearing white cowls over their habits, they chanted again. As they began Psalm 150 — “Praise God in his holy place” — the tall windows above the sanctuary turned from black to midnight blue, the first hint of daybreak.

The sun rose over the next hour, illuminating the chapel’s backdrop — the Mesa de las Viejas, whose 500-foot rock walls faded from red to shades of sand and cream in a glowing gradient. Save for the faint rush of the Chama River, a sage green tributary of the Rio Grande, the canyon was soundless.

The setting was carefully chosen. The Rev. Aelred Wall, who founded the monastery in 1964, had scoured the country for a spot where he and his brother monks could “return to the sources” — to the quiet and isolation necessary for their contemplative vocation. Passing through New Mexico, he heard about an old ranch house for sale 75 miles northwest of Santa Fe — 115 acres along the Chama, surrounded by national forest.




The adobe chapel of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

Father Wall found the property at the end of a 13-mile dirt road. He sent an ecstatic letter to his friends at the Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, N.Y., waxing poetic about the river valley and its “great sentinels” of colorful cliffs. “Then came the cathedrals in stone, some of them Romanesque, some of them Gothic,” he wrote.

Father Wall bought the ranch house. He asked his friend George Nakashima, the master woodworker and architect, to design a chapel.

The chapel was built of adobe in the shape of a Greek cross, with arms of equal length, using clay from the site. Hand-carved doors were brought from Mexico, the bell from an old church in the northern New Mexican village of Questa. The artist Ben Shahn, a friend of Mr. Nakashima’s, contributed two large stained-glass windows. Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived 25 miles away, in Abiquiu, served as an artistic consultant.

Set against the towering cliffs, the adobe chapel looks otherworldly. The Cistercian monk and writer Thomas Merton, who visited the monastery in 1968, once likened its bell tower to “a watchman looking for something or someone of whom it does not speak.”

Shortly after 9 a.m., the bell rang again, for Mass. About 20 visitors settled into chairs in the back of the chapel. Abbot Christian Leisy, in purple vestments, walked around the altar, swinging a thurible of smoldering incense. Smoke swirled and billowed in the light as it rose.




The Tabernacle in the Abbey Church.



Brother Bede in the Cloister.



Brother Chrysostom held a rosary.

A monk read from the Book of Baruch: “Take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” The second reading was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The Gospel was from the third chapter of Luke, in which John calls on the people of Judea to repent and be baptized and “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Abbot Christian’s homily noted that the first lines of the Gospel situated us in history — “the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.” Luke, he said, wants us to understand that these events really happened. The passage is also a reminder that God often surprises. God intervenes on the margins, speaking not through Caesar or Pontius Pilate, but through John — “someone unknown, someone living in the desert, eating wild honey and insects.”

Abbot Christian closed by reading a Jewish folk tale from the philosopher Martin Buber. It told of a Rabbi Eisik, in Krakow, who dreams three times that someone suggests he look for treasure under a bridge in Prague. The rabbi travels to Prague, only to learn that the treasure was at home, buried under his stove.

After Mass, most of the monks retreated to private quarters. A boisterous group from the Washington National Cathedral migrated over to the gift shop and loaded up on wares made by the brothers: goat-milk soap; scented candles; their latest album of Gregorian chant, “Blessings, Peace, and Harmony.”

Shortly after 11 a.m. the bell rang again, calling the monks. As the visitors drove off in a caravan, sending dust clouds into the blue sky, the brothers filed back into the chapel. — Abby Aguirre




The Monastic Cemetery near the chapel.

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Sweating Through a Honeymoon in Paradise

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Listen. I can be laid back when I have to be. I have been known to wait five or six hours before answering the occasional email. I have at times neglected to shake a towel vigorously before using it, risking unknown vermin latching onto my vulnerable, naked body. So when my husband and I decide to honeymoon in Bali, I have faith I will be able to enjoy it. To appreciate the views of unadulterated nature as I drift up and down a luxurious hotel infinity pool. And not necessarily think about, say, what kind of exotic parasites might potentially be inserting themselves into my vagina within said infinity pool.

At some point, perhaps basking in the glow of our travel agent’s enthusiasm, I must have decided my rampant O.C.D. wouldn’t be able to follow me to Bali, through interminable customs lines and sprawling opulent resorts and into the river-facing hotel spa where the woman in charge of my three-and-a-half-hour massage is now telling me to relax.

A three-and-a-half-hour massage is long. Longer than James Cameron’s “Titanic.” As the masseuse cakes my back with mud, I wonder what would be happening right now in “Titanic” if I had started it at the same time as this massage. Would Jack be learning to use utensils yet? Or would the ship be filling up with water already and I can break free sooner than I thought because time stops still here and in fact all notion of time as I know it has changed, and I will now understand time as a circle like Amy Adams’s character in “Arrival”?

“Relax,” the masseuse whispers as she applies pressure to my very tense neck, and I try not to think about the mysterious animal feces I found on the floor of our bungalow last night which my husband, in a bout of self-preservation, attempted to convince me were just a bit of rubble.

After the massage, in an attempt to relax further, I scan our bedroom floor with the iPhone flashlight because the lighting in the room is elegantly dim and by elegantly I mean frustratingly for someone who is not planning to engage in seduction at any point during this trip. I look up different critter feces on Google. I conclude the ones dotting our bungalow floor are salamander feces.

“Salamanders are great!” my mom gushes over our WhatsApp call, which I have initiated in a whispered panic from the locked bathroom so my husband won’t accuse me of failing to enjoy our honeymoon.

The smart toilet keeps greeting me, its lid opening and closing with a little whir, confused as to why I’m not using it.

“Salamanders eat all the bugs! They’re there to help you!” my mom says with forceful enthusiasm.

I do not ask her what if a salamander’s feces drops from the ceiling into my mouth because I’ve noticed her patience run short with this type of question over the years.

In the morning I am awakened by what I assume are ambulances but which are allegedly cicadas. My left ankle is swollen with two mosquito bites. I suffer from “skeeter syndrome,” which means mosquito bites on my skin distend to tumoral degrees and erupt in tiny welts. So the salamanders are clearly not doing their job, or: there are so many mosquitoes in this room their predators are sated and unable to eat them all — a frightening prospect.

I casually let this information drop as our concierge drives us through the resort in a buggy, a frangipani flower tucked behind his ear. He promises to fix the bug problem and drops us off at the lobby. A car is taking us to a traditional Balinese dance at a nearby temple. It is on a cliff top with scenic views of the Indian Ocean and sheathed in what the internet calls a “peaceful ambience.”

According to my iPhone, there is 90 percent humidity during the outdoor dance. I presume 100 percent humidity involves drowning. Rivulets of sweat pour down my spine like caressing fingers. I spray DEET on myself so profusely I can taste the chemicals on my tongue through my nostrils. The sun sets and the temperature cools slightly. Then the dancers set the stone stage on fire.

Suddenly (to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” in my head), swarms of moths the size of industrial pedestal fans descend from the heavens, slapping us in the face and alighting on our backs so that unacquainted audience members begin to pick them off one another in a display of solidarity. They’re just moths, relax, I repeat to myself, smiling emptily for my husband’s camera as the family seated behind me swat them off my shoulder blades.

Once the dance ends, our pores dilated from our impromptu steam bath, we make our way down the steep cliff to the parking lot, monkeys as big as dogs on either side of us, eyeing our purses and phones. One of them sits alarmingly close to our car. Our guide advises us to hide our jewelry and avoid eye contact.

When we return to the hotel, we find that a dramatic mosquito net has been swathed over the bed, and rubber has been stuffed into the window gaps. I DEET myself regardless. I trust no one.

On our last day in Bali my husband and I perform a Balinese wedding ceremony because it’s too late to cancel. The officiants warn us that they will sprinkle a little ceremonial water on us. We agree to this, and thus commences our soothing, spiritual journey. The priest proceeds to pour bowl after bowl of ceremonial water on our scalps. My makeup, hair and contact lenses stream down my cheeks. My eyes burn. I wonder if I could get a urinary tract infection this way. The priest sticks grains of rice to our dripping foreheads. They slide off and pellet our laps. The water never stops. It is more eternal than our love.

I count the hours until I return home. I berate myself for doing this, reminding myself this is the only trip of this scale I will ever take and as such it should be enjoyed.

On the two plane rides home I watch three “Bridget Jones” movies in a semi-catatonic state. I feel numb when we step into our apartment. I Google “Bali parasites you have to extract with tweezers from eyeballs weeks later.” The results are inconclusive. I start to relax. Then I notice them. Crawling up our kitchen walls. Pantry moth larvae. I cry a little bit. My husband cries a little bit. I miss Bali.

Episode is a column of first-person essays exploring a moment in a writer’s life. Virginia Feito is the author of the novel “Mrs. March” and a writer for Vanity Fair Spain. She lives in Madrid.

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