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Restaurant mogul amasses 1.8m subscribers in 12 days

With just 16 videos, one YouTuber gained 1.8 million subscribers and 20 million views in less than 12 days.

Those are stats one might expect from K-pop stars, who often get millions of subscribers right away. But this channel belongs to 52-year-old food specialist and restaurant entrepreneur Paik Jong-won.

Paik is the founder and CEO of Theborn Korea, Korea’s biggest food franchise, which operates 1,300 restaurants under more than 20 chains. 

Paik Jong-won (Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)
Paik Jong-won (Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)

He became a TV personality in 2015 when he appeared on the MBC variety show “My Little Television.” His candid, good-natured personality and easily adaptable methods of cooking drove ratings way up and eventually led to further success on YouTube.

As many predicted, the channel “Paik Jong-won’s secret recipes” soon earned a Gold Play Button, a distinction the video platform grants to YouTubers who amass 1 million viewers.

“Every time I come back after watching one of his videos, the subscriber numbers have jumped by 10,000,” one commenter wrote under one of Paik’s videos.

Paik shares more than recipes -- he also shares his know-how and expertise to help novice restaurant owners starting from scratch. There are recipes for restaurateurs who want to produce 100 servings; recipes for typical Korean side dishes; and tips for other CEOs in the restaurant industry.

(Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)
(Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)

“I want to help people find confidence in cooking,” Paik said in a video introducing his YouTube channel. “By making adjustments to my directions, based on their preferences, I hope people can discover their own recipes.”

“I don’t have a hobby of cooking, and I definitely won’t be making such large amounts of food, but for some reason, I keep on watching his videos,” another viewer commented.

Many others commented on his character, especially how humble he is despite being a billionaire restaurant tycoon.

Yet another commenter said, “I’m learning about more than just cooking, but about his experience and attitude in life as well.”

Another added, “His generosity in sharing his knowledge with possible competitors in the same industry and his sincere efforts to embrace them are what makes him special.”

(Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)
(Screen grab of Paik Jong-won`s YouTube)

Meanwhile, others are not so happy about Paik’s latest achievement.

Some see his presence on YouTube as a threat to ordinary content creators who focus on cooking. For most, a Gold Play Button is a long-term goal that takes years of effort to obtain.

But a number of other cooking-focused content creators spoke up for Paik.

Seungwoo Daddy, who has 150,000 YouTube subscribers, welcomed Paik’s foray into YouTube. “Unlike television, (where there are fights) over viewer ratings, YouTube does not limit its viewers to one creator. There’s a good chance that someone who subscribes to one cooking channel actually follows another too,” he said. “Many people still find cooking difficult, and it would be more effective in drawing the public’s attention if an expert, like Paik, joined in to talk about it.”

On the channel, Paik also shares clips from the restaurant owner meetups that he has hosted since 2013. 

By Choi Ji-won (