Korean Englishman 영국 남자
South Korea has quickly become a topic of interest for many on the internet today. From K-pop which is quickly becoming a viral sensation around the world, to Son Heung-Min who is currently dominating the international soccer scene, it is undeniable that Korea is being launched into the mainstream. This can largely be attributed to the ever-growing scale of the internet with platforms, like YouTube, that allow users to connect from different countries through the power of viral media. Josh Carrot and Ollie Kendal have made exactly that their career with their YouTube channel, Korean Englishman. With just shy of 4 million subscribers and subtitled videos in both English and Korean, the pair strives to introduce their home country of England — and the rest of the Western world — to all aspects of South Korean culture. In their videos, they often bring their friends and family to Korea to experience the culture with them and take them to unique places in Korea that even native Koreans may have not experienced. Since its beginnings in 2013, the channel has successfully served to be a cultural bridge between Korea and the rest of the world. What makes this channel particularly stand out, however, is the fact that both Josh and Ollie are non-native Koreans and yet are currently one of the most popular YouTube channels in Korea.
As of December, 2020
Subscribers on main channel
Subscribers on secondary channel
This then begs the question: how did two random British guys get started making videos about South Korea? The history of the channel begins even before YouTube was created, in 2001 when Josh Carrott, one of the co-creators, moved to China with his family. There, he attended an international school that primarily consisted of students from Korea. “Since all of my friends were Korean,” Josh says in response to a question about his interest in the country, “I got more and more into Korean culture!” So much so that he decided to study Korean culture in college, where he met his best friend and other co-creator of the channel, Ollie Kendal.
Even back then, Josh was enamored with sharing Korean culture with those around him. After graduating from college, the two led normal lives with traditional full-time jobs; Josh worked at a language school and Ollie worked for a homeless shelter. The channel originally started as a summer project one year for the two to explore a creative outlet. “We were like, what are we both really good at? And I was like, well, I studied Korean in university. I like speaking Korean. I’m relatively good at Korean. And Ollie likes to make videos” says Josh in a video. From there, the two continued to spend countless hours to produce a video weekly, until they amassed enough subscribers to quit their jobs and commit to YouTube full-time.
“To me, Korea is a part of who I am. And this is the same way in England, as the part of who I am. And these cultures know so little about each other that I just can’t help but introduce them to each other”. – Josh
The Fire Noodle Challenge!
Their first major success as a channel was their first viral video titled “THE ORIGINAL FIRE NOODLE CHALLENGE!!” In this video, Josh and Ollie challenged their friends to finish a bowl of “Fire Chicken Noodles” (불덝볶음면) which were designed specifically for “local spicy food lovers in the niche market” according to its developers at Samyang Foods. The noodles’ intense spice sent all of the participants in the video into a frenzy as they rushed to find the closest beverage to offset the spice while the YouTubers filmed their hilarious reactions. Samyang Foods reported in 2018 that there had been over 1 billion packets of “Fire Chicken Noodles” sold since its launch in 2012. The video currently has over 10 million views on YouTube and over 100,000 similar videos of others trying the dish. Popular YouTube channels including The Try Guys, Matt Stonie, and REPLAY (from FBE) all have taken on the challenge in their versions of the Fire Noodle Challenge.
This type of eating video, or mukbang (먹방) has become more popular in recent years on video platforms like YouTube. Mukbang literally translates to “eating broadcast” and typically showcases people eating large amounts of delicious food while speaking casually to their viewers. While it originated in Korea and therefore only showcased Korean food, the mukbang format has more recently been applied to all sorts of food from around the world. In a paper on YouTube’s connection to the popularization of the mukbang, the author explains how YouTube’s easy-to-use uploading features helped the mukbang format gain popularity due to its simple nature.
“Besides hosting an enormous number of videos, YouTube provides their users with features that make uploading videos an easy process. There are also features for content creators that aim for more than casually uploading videos.” – From Let’s Play to Let’s Eat: How YouTube’s Affordances Influenced the Growth of Mukbang
This, in addition to the cheap price of most ramen noodles, makes it easy for anyone to recreate their own version of the Fire Noodle Challenge or a similar challenge. The casual format of such videos makes it easy for content creators to continually upload new work without having to go above and beyond in production to gain a mass following.
For Korean Englishman, the mukbang is a simple way for the duo to produce many videos and achieve their goals of introducing Korean culture — in this case food — to the West. A vast majority of their popular videos introduce new foods to the audience/guests. Videos like “English People try Korean BBQ for the first time!?!” and “English people try Korean Ramen for the first time!!” each have 20 million and 11 million views, respectively. While the participants in the video find the foods they are trying unusual at first, they quickly change their opinion once they have tried it. When asked about their food-related videos in an interview, Ollie explains how “food is just one of the easiest ways to introduce a culture to someone. Because you come to Korea and if you don’t speak the language, there are barriers to interacting, whereas if you eat the same food, even if you can’t speak the same language, you’re speaking the language of food.”
While food is the topic of much of their content, it is not the only way the YouTubers try to introduce the two cultures. As their channel has grown, Josh and Ollie have been able to visit Korea more often and even bring their friends and family with them. On these trips, the pair brings their guests to different unique places in Korea, often for food but other times for specifically tailored activities for each guest. For example, one of their series featured Juno, the British 2 year-old. Juno also happens to be Ollie’s daughter, who visited Korea for the first time in January 2020. While Juno tried Korean food for the first time, she also was able to experience a heated water park, a Korean kids cafe, and try on traditional hanboks while there. Similarly they did another series with Josh’s mom in Korea during her birthday week. Along with Josh’s wife, Gabie (who has her own YouTube channel, Gabbie Kook), they showed Josh’s mother different birthday traditions in Korea, like eating seaweed soup for breakfast the day of one’s birthday. They also brought her to different shops and restaurants to celebrate her birthday.
In addition to exploring Korean culture, Josh and Ollie have a second channel, JOLLY, in which the two show some of English culture to their Korean viewers. For example, the duo has uploaded multiple videos showcasing different traditional English dishes and snacks to those who might be unfamiliar. They also have made numerous videos of Ollie learning Korean from Josh and sometimes a special guest. In these videos, they primarily speak in English, rather than a mix of Korean and English like in the Korean Englishman videos. Because of this, JOLLY has a larger international following than Korean Englishman which has a majority of Korean viewers. Still though, the videos are subtitled in both languages which provides an inclusive community for fans of both channels. Ollie even mentions in a Q and A video that “a lot of those viewers on JOLLY are coming and finding Korean Englishman. And finding like, Korean specific content, stuff about Korea, showing people that this is an amazing place to visit!”
From 2017 to 2020, the channel has gained more than 2 million subscribers and is expected to reach well over 5 million subscribers by 2021. Because of this growth, Josh and Ollie have been able to expand their production team in both England and Korea. In a video made in 2018 about the history of the channel, Josh tells their subscribers about what goes on behind the scenes.
“[Making two videos a week and subtitling them in two languages] just takes so much work and there’s no way we were gonna be able to do it alone. Mike and Grace, and now we have Rosemary in Korea. That’s our small little team!” – Josh
From the quality of their videos, it would seem as though a whole team of staff members were working on their videos, but it is surprising to hear how few people are involved in this operation. Since YouTube is a platform that independent creators upload to, many of them are small teams or self-operated companies. YouTube itself does not produce much of its own content, aside from specific YouTube content like YouTube Red, so that leaves creators to figure out the logistics on their own. Many creators, including Korean Englishman, make money through YouTube’s monetization format. Channels can sign up for AdSense, which allows them to run ads during the videos to generate revenue for that particular channel. For Korean Englishman, their roughly 1 million views per video allow for numerous ads to be played which eventually turns into revenue. They also use the channel membership feature on YouTube which allows subscribers to pay certain amounts per month to receive special content from creators. In addition to this, their secondary channel, JOLLY, sells various merchandise that the channel profits from.
Demographics and Appeal
One of the unique features about these YouTubers is the fact that they have a dual cultural knowledge that they enjoy sharing with their viewers. Because of Josh’s unique upbringing as well as his proficiency in the Korean language, he is very knowledgeable and often serves as the guide in their video. While both Josh and Ollie are non-Korean themselves, they appeal to many Koreans who make up the majority of their viewers. In a research paper about transcultural affinity in YouTube, they found that for Korean Englishman, “it seems that in the process of watching how their own culture was perceived by outsiders, the Korean audience members were able to put themselves in the shoes of non- Koreans and see the practices through their eyes.” Many other similar YouTubers share their experiences as non-natives in Korea. For example, The World of Dave is run by Dave Levene, an American currently living in Korea. He often compares either the two countries or brings in his friends from different countries to compare differences in language and customs. For both YouTubers, appealing to Korean and international audiences because of their background is a strength for connecting cultures. According to the research paper, this is because “the YouTubers examined seem to have a keen knowledge of what their viewers want to learn about, and the most effective ways to share such information. Their status as foreigners/outsiders is an attractive point for Korean audiences, too, as they bring fresh insights and perspectives to these viewers’ culture.”
Since both YouTubers have such a large Korean audience, it would make sense for these viewers to interact with them through places like the comment section on their videos. However, in 2019 several Korean YouTube channels ran into an issue with YouTube where they noticed a disproportionate amount of English comments to Korean comments. Korean Englishman reported that they had noticed more and more top listed comments were in English, even if there were Korean comments further down that had more ‘likes’. Josh noted in a video acknowledging the issue, “I just want it to be fairly represented, you know?… It just feels a bit wrong. You know, it doesn’t feel fair!” When they addressed YouTube with the issue, YouTube told them it was an intentional bug in the system, but a bug nonetheless. A YouTube algorithm expert explained that perhaps “it is highly likely that YouTube is doing this on purpose. Adjusting the algorithm to maximize the time people spend on each video, which can be linked to its profit.” However, Josh and Ollie are very much against the bug, even if it could potentially benefit them. Ollie reassured their viewers, “When we’re reading comments, we order them by newest so we don’t miss anything.” Since then, the two have made another video addressing the same issue, claiming that YouTube has not yet fixed the issue but the two will continue to view the comments by newest and ‘pin’ them to the top of the comments section so that the top comments get recognized.
Since the channel was founded in 2013, Korean Englishman has had a hand in representing Korean culture online. Their videos on different aspects of Korean culture from the food, to the recreational activities, to even historical traditions have expanded the knowledge of both those who do and do not live in Korea. During an interview with Mark and Jaehyun from the K-pop group NCT, they spend time comparing their impact on the internet with the growing phenomenon of K-pop.
In 2019, the YouTubers received the Korean Image Stepping Stone Bridge Award from the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI). This institute is tasked with the goal to bring Korea into the mainstream and introduce it to the world. They awarded the channel for “traveling between Korea and the U.K., [and] producing a variety of interesting Korean culture videos with outstanding Korean communication skills.” Their videos continue to act as a cultural bridge between the West and Korea. The research paper on transcultural affinity in YouTube concluded their paper by stating: “This study seems to suggest that YouTube content creators can indeed act as cultural bridges and that the very design of the YouTube platform is uniquely suited to enable transcultural affinity to form, and cultural literacy to occur among geographically dispersed individuals.” The pair’s unique cultural knowledge, as well as their talent for making videos, sets them up perfectly for bridging cultures together. As culture is ever-changing as is Korea’s position in the international spotlight, it will be interesting to see how Korean Englishman will adapt to the changing times all through the power of video.