In August Chinese state-run media released a list of “Foreigners who are most loved by Chinese people.” There is one single South Korean national who is a proud alumna of HUFS among those names in the list: Ryu Ji-won. As one of the most loved foreigners by Chinese viewers and as a proud alumna who seized success in both business and life goals, The Argus interviewed this exceptional person.
The Argus: Please briefly introduce yourself.
Ryu Ji-won (Ryu): My name is Ryu Ji-won, and I began my university life in the Chinese Studies Division in year 2011. I chose my double major in Journalism and Media Studies.
Lately, I am committing myself to a one-man online broadcast for both Chinese and Korean viewers. Chinese viewers call me “Hanguo dongdong.” The last two syllables “dongdong” is a kind of title to show close friendship. It indicates that my viewers see me as a close friend, so I am gladly using the nickname “Hanguo dongdong.”
The Argus: What are main contents of your broadcast?
Ryu: Mainly, my topics for broadcast are contents that can show “Modern China” without stage-managing, to improve the unfavorable impression of the country that foreigners commonly have.
For instance, I deal with Chinese dramas, celebrities who are getting a lot of spotlight time in China, fashion and cosmetics in the country for Korean viewers. In reverse, I introduce unpopular details of China even to Chinese people, latest culture codes in Korea to viewers in China. Sometimes I even walk out of my studio and talk to random people to illustrate both countries realistically.
The Argus: What was your motivation to start the Chinese-based business?
Ryu: I spent five years in China since my father had to move to the country for his business. That was during my childhood, so I did not feel that it was very different from the place I called home. China carries a special meaning to me. It has become a place I call home too, with countless precious memories.
However, I was often frustrated after I returned to Korea, from the negative impression of China that Koreans often have. “Was it safe enough to live there?” or “Was your house clean enough to live in?” were the first things my Korean friends asked me. I was so sad that the place where I grew up was being considered an undeveloped country. It later made me make up my mind that I do want to bridge the gap between these two countries to make misunderstandings right.
Even though mainstream cultural media gives a rough silhouette of both countries to one another, not everything gets featured in mainstream media. Especially, considering broadcast censorship in China, there are too many things excluded and untold. These untold stories are not only often a catalyst for misunderstandings but also a solution to get rid of them at the same time. Since I have no relation to censorship or authorities, I can deliver messages freely, without any interference during the process. I am making the most of the chances I have, to give a real and clear picture to both countries.
The Argus: How did you prepare the one-man online broadcast business?
Ryu: There was a mentoring program hosted by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. I met my mentor who had unparalleled experience and expertise in Public Relations. I spent six months of preparation. While working in the marketing department of a Korean mobile video service company, I could learn a lot about Chinese social networks and their services. Then I had an in-depth analysis about what broadcasting and what contents I could deal with the best, and what would my future viewers would like the most.
My first broadcast was in Sept. 9 last year in Chinese online video site called “Billy Billy.” The site has a lot of teen users and viewers in their twenties, so I thought Korean celebrities and cosmetics would fit well. The very first item I introduced in the episode was “TFBOYS,” a Chinese boy group. Nothing much else in the episode but the exchange of conversation about the group was included. When I checked the hits next morning, the numbers said 300. Being amazed, I kept my broadcast with updates, which led me to have 3 million subscribers in the next four months.
The Argus: You are the only Korean on the list. What do you think is the biggest factor to be nominated as the most loved Korean in China?
Ryu: Maybe the passion to illustrate and elaborate on both countries with veracity played the biggest part. Lately, I receive a lot of messages from one-man online contents creators saying that they want to collaborate with me. Most of them tell me that they want to make a lot of money with the contents.
Of course businesses are run by profit, but my business has something beyond money. The value I want to earn from the broadcast is the eradication of misunderstandings. I hope I could function as a bridge between two countries, even if it will not be economically promising. Chinese viewers really like my uploads and leave a lot of favorable comments below the video especially when I deliver the under-illustrated and understated.
The Argus: What were your difficulties in this broadcast?
Ryu: I still think there is solid negative impression in the minds of Koreans deep down. Whenever I read news articles related to China, the comments below are just horrible. A recent earthquake in the country which claimed so many innocent lives, for instance, had comments such as “It should have killed more.” Not only the comments for this article, but nearly all the comments of any other articles are translated in Chinese and they read everything. It hurts me badly when I see a solid enmity between the two countries and questions like “Can I really reconcile the misunderstandings between 1.3 billion Chinese and 50 million Korean people with this single business?” The ultimate goal of my business is to bridge gap between the two but these self-asked questions make the goal itself beyond reach, no matter how hard I try.
However, I always find a silver lining from other kinds of comments. “I have a good impression of Korea simply thanks to you, no one else.” Receiving these encouraging messages, I also realize that there is no one else who can do this and this is not the problem I can give up. I get psychological energy from these and start planning for the next upload.
The Argus: What are your future plans?
Ryu: I would like to focus on the broadcast for a while, participating wherever there is cultural exchange between the countries. They share a lot of things in common. History says they shared culture from the very beginning and even had shared the same interests.
However, lately, there has been too much enmity and confrontation because of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defens (THAAD) crisis in which the two countries expressed extreme hostility online. Obviously these countries have always been close to one another not only ethnically, but also in terms of culture and history. I aspire to deliver the message that we can be closer with hospitality instead of hostility through my broadcast, so I have been lately expanding my business to collaborate with other Korean broadcasters who are engaging in Chinese contents.
The Argus: Is there anything you want to share with the readers?
Ryu: I want them to live freely and happily. By “freely and happily,” I do not mean daytime drinking or clubbing but to keep wondering and wandering to find what you love. I used to work for a company, in which I had to handle too much stress and a large workload at the same time. It was one of the hardest times I have ever walked through. I decided to quit the biggest source of pain and submitted my letter of resignation to my boss. His last words were quite unforgettable. “I know the company gives you a lot of stress but outside is hell.”
Of course it was unclear if I could be successful in a whole new business, especially the roads untraveled like mine. Looking back, however, it was the best choice I made in my life since I simply find this fun and it makes me happy. I want HUFSans to know that there are so many unreached and untraveled choices and career paths other than being hired in a tedious office.
Most college students, including HUFSans, live everyday simply to get hired, under severe stress and unlimited competition. Ryu did not lose control of her purpose, made her own choices, and now she lives every single day accomplishing her goals anew. HUFSans should know that there are so many underestimated chances that can lead them to find their own path.
Reporter of Campus Section