By Yoon Ja-young
Three years have passed since YouTube started services in Korea. The global user created content (UCC) or video-sharing portal opened the doors to the world for users here and to Korea for users abroad. Some people say that their life changed when the doors opened. The Korea Times met these YouTube power users to hear their story.
Boy becomes guitar prodigy
Jung Sung-ha was only nine years old when he started playing the guitar — He watched his father play and became curious. His father soon found out that his son was talented but he never expected that much when he uploaded a video of him performing on YouTube. “My father took a video with a digital camera. He uploaded it on YouTube just for fun,” recollects the 14-year-old who plays fingerstyle, a tricky technique where the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers directly pluck strings.
The prodigy received a wild reaction on YouTube. Yoko Ono also left a comment on his channel as he played “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles. “As I was only an elementary school student, I didn’t know about her at first. When my father told me who she was, I was just so amazed.”
Now, his uploaded views total over 222 million, and over 335,000 are subscribing to his channel (www.youtube.com/jwcfree). Jung is the only Korean individual YouTube user to breach 200 million views. Seeing his videos on YouTube, artists around the world invited him to perform.
Thus Jung’s Scandinavian Tour was organized as well as a joint performance with famous guitarist Trace Bundy in the United States. He had a concert tour in Europe in January, and is scheduled to perform in Japanese cities in May.
Eat your kimchi
Simon and Martina, who came to Korea in 2008 to be teachers, meanwhile, started making videos upon their arrival. “We started making videos from day one to show our parents that we were okay. Two days before we came to Korea there was news of North Korea threatening to make Seoul an ‘ocean of fire.’ Our parents were scared,” Simon said.
To show them that they were okay, the couple uploaded videos of them enjoying “sundubu jjige,” or Korean traditional porridge made with soft tofu and pepper paste sauce.
The “We are okay” videos for their parents turned into the “everything about Korea” channel, which they titled “Eat Your Kimchi.” They uploaded a lot of cooking videos — they love Korean food, especially meat dishes such as bulgogi, galbi and samgyeopsal —and videos of various Korean things that amazed them such as delivery services or table bells in restaurants. They didn’t miss out on videos of Korean content, from dramas and TV shows to music videos of K-pop stars, of course, and the most popular are their K-pop dance covers — they pick between six to eight songs of the year with the most memorable moves and show viewers how to dance. Videos on Korean slang, which they made on keywords they got from their students, have also got a huge response.
Their channel (www.youtube.com/simonandmartina) boasts over 33,300 subscribers and nearly 7.5 million upload views.
The couple has now become famous. A number of TV programs here have featured them, and people know them when meet in the street. “People stop us and say ‘Oh, YouTube,’ and take photos. We were totally shocked.” Martina said.
They get lots of comments — their e-mail accounts get flooded especially when they post K-pop videos. While North Americans are very inquisitive, asking where they got their hair cut, for instance, most of the comments by people in Korea are thank you messages for making the videos on the country.
YouTubers celebrate Hangul-nal
Sun Hyun-woo, another YouTube power user, is known as the preacher of Hangul, or the Korean alphabet, but his first uploads to the UCC service were his break dancing. “I like to dance, and one day I was determined that I should make records of it as I wonbe able to do it when I get old,” Sun said.
He uploaded the video clips on YouTube as there was no other good platform in Korea. “I never expected anybody to see it, but the number of views breached hundreds and thousands. This made me curious.”
It led him to make other videos, the most of which are languages, where diverse expressions are translated into various languages that he speaks — he is fluent in English, Japanese and French and feels no language barrier when he travels to China or Spanish speaking countries. He is studying three other languages. His channel became especially popular among those learning Korean, following Hallyu, or wave of Korean pop culture abroad.
The 30-year-old picked “Hangul-nal” event which he organized through YouTube as the most unforgettable experience in YouTube. Hangul-nal is the national holiday in Korea that celebrates the creation of the Korean writing system.
“Other alphabets don’t have a birthday but Hangul does. I suggested to my subscribers that I would make a video for them if they send me messages celebrating the day,” Sun said. “I had a thousand or two subscribers, but around 100,000 people saw the video as it spread here and there.”
He made video of the celebratory messages from 24 countries around the world, and the special event is being held every year.
YouTube changed Sun’s life. He was selected as a lecturer of Korean history for foreign English teachers in Korea. He was amazed to see 10 out of 100 saying that they saw him on YouTube. He is now planning a business based on the online community.
YouTube can be a job
YouTube introduced a user partnership program where power users get profits from the advertisements on their channel. “We adopted the user partnership program to return the profits. There are around 15,000 partners around the world,” David Park, a strategist at YouTube Online said.
The program helps some power users dedicate themselves to making YouTube videos. Simon is one of them. “Our video making, editing ... it takes so much time. We have no life. We can’t focus on both,” Simon said.
The couple, who were high school teachers in Canada, had no experience of video or editing before they came to Korea. Now, their videos are like professional ones. Their Music Mondays videos, where they introduce K-pop, take especially hard work. They do the scripting, which takes two or three hours, filming, which takes another two or three, transcoding, taking an hour or two, and editing, which takes six to seven. It takes even longer when they write subtitles. “But we like it,” Simon said.
“We would like to make this our career ... Live in a country for couple of years and show it to the other parts of the world, what it is really like to live in a country.” Martina said being their own bosses, working together in the same room would be the perfect job.
How power users enjoy YouTube
The power users are also actively employing the platform to enjoy other people’s videos. Jung learned guitar through YouTube, though now many people learn guitar with his videos. He continues to see other guitarists play on YouTube or enjoy music videos of Big Bang, who happen to be the favorite of Martina, or the official channel of YG Entertainment.
Martina said she goes to YouTube whenever she needs to figure how to cook something, like instructions for how to roll gimbap, a Korean roll filled with steamed rice and vegetables. The only thing she doesn’t understand is why she finds herself looking at a video on shower curtains an hour after she started with the gimbap video. She said all those recommended videos are like a black hole.