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Korean American TikToker goes viral for teaching nephew about MLK Jr.

Chris Cho, who was applauded for his age-appropriate conversation, says he was replicating the way his own English teacher taught him about racism in the U.S.
Chris Cho speaks with his nephew, Devon.
Chris Cho speaks with his nephew, Devon.Courtesy Chris Cho/NBC News

Korean American TikTok star Chris Cho went viral after posting a video last week that showed him teaching his 4-year-old nephew about Martin Luther King Jr.

Cho, the owner of Seorabol Restaurant in Philadelphia, who gained a large following during the pandemic for sharing Korean recipes, explained to his nephew, Devon, how Black people were treated during the Jim Crow era. “If you were African American and if your skin was black, they told you to sit in the back [of the bus],” he says in the video. “You weren’t allowed to sit in the front.” 

Devon asked what would happen if a Black person chose to sit in the front, and Cho said, “Sometimes police officers are called, and they would hit the African American people and then be like, ‘get in the back’ and be really mean. But Martin Luther King fought for that,” for Black people's rights.

Cho then told him about separate water fountains for whites and Blacks and asked Devon if he thought that was unfair.

Devon nodded.

 “So, Martin Luther King was like, ‘That’s not fair, we’re going to fight for this,” Cho said.

Cho told NBC Asian America that the conversation arose when he was at his sister-in-law’s home and asked aloud if a store would be open since it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When his nephew asked him who King was, Cho took the opportunity to teach Devon. 

“Martin Luther King Jr. is actually my first-ever role model — besides my father,” Cho said. 

Cho grew up in South Korea, which is racially homogeneous, and said he didn’t fully understand racism until he moved to the U.S.

“When I came to America, I remember just reading about it, and I was so confused. I asked my teacher, and they were explaining it to me. So I guess I was doing what my ESL (English as a second language) teacher was doing for me,” he said.

He said he spoke to his nephew using the same method his teachers once used wit him.

“I just started explaining it to him, and then I kept checking back to my sister-in-law and my wife like, ‘Did he understand that?’” he said. 

TikTok users applauded Cho for using age-appropriate language to talk to Devon. 

“This is so wholesome. It’s great you guys are teaching them young,” one user said. 

“I like the way you explained to him,” another said.

“To be honest, a lot of things I do are because I’m inspired by him,” Cho said of King.