Due to an entertainment market flourishing in the pan-Asian region, South Korea's tourism industry has made tremendous gains over the years. But while Hallyu generates interest and curiosity in Korea, there are cultural bridges that prevent some potential overseas visitors from making the trip.
English-speaking YouTubers have filled that gap. Living in Korea and documenting their time here, viewers become more accustomed to the idea of traveling in the country.
|Clark in one of her vlogs introducing pink cafes in Seoul. (Cari Clark/YouTube)|
Vlogs, or video blogs, are so popular online that they have become tools to bolster the tourism industry. YouTubers vlogging their lives in Korea -- ranging from documenting their days to arranging full-length guides on where to travel around the country -- have found significant success in the craft.
It has most definitely worked for the tourism market, according to part-time YouTuber Cari Clark. The San Diego native moved to Korea in 2014 and found success through her Tumblr after uploading photos of Seoul. From that substantial following she began a YouTube channel, where she posted vlogs ranging from a guide on the best rooftop cafes in Seoul to exploring its outskirts.
“People abroad have a limited perspective on what Korea is actually like because of Korean pop music and TV dramas,” she said. “That’s why vlogs are so popular, because YouTubers can show the real side of Korea that most people may not know.”
Clark was sent on a sponsored trip to Jeju Island by UNESCO in June, alongside other YouTubers from all around the world. Earlier in the spring, Seoul Tourism Organization’s online marketing platform One More Trip established a competition to find “tour-tainers,” or tourism entertainers, from YouTube. Clark was chosen as one of the eight for the program.
The program is a new platform through which the tourism industry has hoped to attract more tourists from across the globe, expanding its reach beyond Asia. By selecting and training a group of English-speaking online influencers, the industry can more effectively guide them toward creating videos relevant to an international audience.
|Clark, center, alongside other YouTubers on a sponsored trip to Jeju Island by UNESCO. (Cari Clark/YouTube)|
Even beyond the industry itself, YouTube has helped smaller businesses gain exposure, such as the time Clark emailed a traditional Korean hanok guesthouse to see if she could film in its space for a few hours. The house instead offered her a room all to herself for a night.
But it is not only through vlogging that YouTubers have helped generate interest in Korea. Another selling point of the South Korean market is cosmetics, but there are limited English-speaking online influencers who can help explain the products to those less informed.
Edward Avila, an Asian beauty YouTuber based in Seoul, is one of the most prominent foreign YouTubers viewed online. With over half a million subscribers, Avila reviews Korean skin care and makeup products, produces music and vlogs on his channel.
“Only a few years back, people got to know Korea solely through K-Pop,” said Avila. “But to see regular people like myself living in Seoul, where everyone’s favorite idols are, it makes people curious. If they want to live in Korea but can’t, they instead live vicariously through our videos.”
Avila started using makeup in high school, first to cover skin blemishes. Then he moved to Seoul in 2013, which was when the humble beginnings of his YouTube channel boosted into a full-blown career. As for vlogging, he initially grew bored of it, he said, but a friend convinced him to pick up the camera again.
That friend, he says, is Joan Kim, another full-time YouTuber based in Seoul who is best known for her product reviews as well as her side channel, where she posts a vlog every day.
|Avila testing and reviewing a Korean makeup product. (Edward Avila/YouTube)|
Reviewing beauty products supports the tourism industry in a number of different ways. Interest in Korean beauty generates the will to visit the country and find its best skin care and makeup products, recommended by online influencers. The reviews are safeguards for potential customers, who search for reviews before buying a product they are unsure about, especially because the products are imported from another country.
“YouTube has become a platform where people can gain real perspectives and genuine opinions on different types of products,” said Avila. “It‘s definitely helped the South Korean market in many ways.”
In fact, the YouTube market is so lucrative that multichannel networks, such as Avila’s company Treasure Hunter and its rival CJ Entertainment’s DIA TV, were established in order to manage content creators and grow the industry.
It has given online influencers opportunities to work with numerous makeup brands which typically do not reach out to English-speaking YouTubers personally. Instead, companies that sell Korean beauty products like Wishtrend help source them to YouTubers, who review the products in their videos.
But Clark said that signing with a multichannel network is not as beneficial to YouTubers with smaller followings like hers. Still, she has no qualms about it.
“Right now, I’m at a stage where I can answer every single comment, Instagram message and Snapchat,” she said. “Last week, I grabbed coffee with five different subscribers, all individually. It’s really special.”
By Paige Shin / Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org)