I was able to do an interview with Keith Kim the creator of seoulistic.com and youtube personality. I've been a fan of his site and his vblogs are kinda addicting. His site is one of the most trafficked sites in Korea. Seoulistic is a one stop shop for all things Korean/Korea. It's an information powerhouse covering cultural nuances, helpful travel tips, Korean lifestyle, and a great variety of funny and informative youtube videos.
Here is the interview:
I worked at KoreanClass101, a podcast teaching Korean for about 3 years. That's where I learned about the web and how to build successful websites. Ever since then, I've wanted to make my own website. When I came to Korea (again) in 2010, it was an opportunity that I saw. I saw there was a lack of quality and engaging content for Korean culture and travel, and so I started the site, keeping in mind that I would like to turn it profitable in the near future.
The site is very comprehensive covering everything from practical tips, such as what and where eat, to cultural nuances. How did you decide which categories to include and what is the thought process?
I initially focused on topics such as living in Korea, much like 10mag or seoul selection, which mostly have a domestic English speaking audience. But I realized there was a much bigger market of people outside of Korea. So I expanded and focused my topics and categories to include traveling to Korea and what to do in Korea. So the site spans both living and traveling to Korea, with all the must-dos and tips.
What has the response been? Do people in Seoul recognize you from your vlogs? What is the demographic of your audience?
Response has been overall very positive and encouraging. When people recognize me in the streets (usually Hongdae), I always get a little kick and feel a bit proud of myself and the work that I'm doing. Most of my demographic are younger people (teens to 20's), who mostly have become interested in Korea through Kpop, dramas, gfs/bfs, etc.
What is the most challenging thing about running the site? What is the most rewarding?
The most challenging is working by myself. It's hard to get everything done on time while maintaining a certain level of quality. Also, I'm still new to video and YouTube, so it's difficult, but it's also a learning experience. Learning is also probably the most rewarding parts of this. I am of course applying the skills that I had previously, but I am learning new things all the time. This is especially true for running a business.
And when a post/video does well, I always get a kick out of that too :)
What is the daily process in creating the next video or helpful tip on the site?
There's no one way I come up with ideas for posts or videos. They just come while I live life here. And I don't think there's any shortage of these ideas. Once I have an initial idea, I usually jot it down on my phone very quickly so I don't forget. I write down all the thoughts I have. At a later point when I'm ready to write or script a video, I have fresh eyes to add to them even more. From there, it's just writing or recording/editing.
I saw that you now have a staff at Seoulistic. How did you get your team together? What does each of them do?
I hired a few writers through a job posting, but right now, there is only 1. I am working on this full time now, so I have more time to dedicate to the site without help.
A lot of your work is explaining Korean culture and why people do what they do. What are some things that you find hard to understand about Korean culture? What are something’s you admire about the culture?
I still haven't figured out the dating. It's crazy. I've been here for more than 5 years total, and I still don't get it. Maybe I just don't get women in general and am blaming it on cultural differences. But I definitely haven't figured out dating. As a Korean-American, I have different experience here than non-Koreans. And for me, I admire that I belong. I really appreciate that and have learned to love the fact that I am welcomed and accepted (sort of) in a society as a while.
If someone were to live in Korea that is not Korean, what do you think would be the most important piece of advice you could give them?
Learn to read hangul. It's super easy and immensely useful. Even if you don't plan on learning Korean, a few hours of investment of learning to read will make life so much better.
What is the experience you want each visitor of Seoulistic to have?
Good question! I think I want people to be satisfied and to be engaged in the process. A lot of websites in this niche are straight information. And that's fine, but there's nothing differentiating one website from another if that's the case. With Seoulistic, I try to have fun with posts and videos so that people are enjoying the content.
Anything we should be looking out for down the pipeline regarding Seoulistic?
Videos! We recently were invited to the YouTube music awards, and I got much inspiration from the people there. They built entire companies and careers out of YouTube, and I realized how powerful it could be. So I'm taking videos more seriously.
What is your background? Where did you grow up? Do you identify more with America or Korea?
I grew up in New York with the Korean-American community. So I thought I was Korean back then. But then I moved here and realized that I am really American as well. The identity question was pretty big for me. But now I am total peace with it. I am exactly that. A Korean-American.
What were your parents like growing up? Were they strict traditional Korean parents or were they more laid back? Did they support your decision to take Seoulistic into a full time venture?
My dad spent most of his life in America, so he's very laid back. He tells me to do what makes me happy. My mom is more Korean, however. Even to this day she still asks if I would like to go to law school (I'm 30!).
Do you see yourself living in Korea long term?
Until the site takes off and is self-sustaining. I see myself here for a few more years, and then moving to another country to start another site hopefully.
What is your favorite thing to eat in Korea?
hadongkwan - my number 1 restaurant recommendation in seoul. They have the best gomtang in the world. Although my mother and grandmother weren't the best cooks, eating here reminds me of them. It's that homey, comfort food that I love about Korean food.
What is one hobby you have?
Video games. haha. I'm trying to sell my playstation though. It's taking a bit too much time away
What is your pet peeve?
Sorry, I can't think of any :(
What are some idiosyncrasies you have?
When riding cars or buses and looking out the window, I tap my feet at each passing car. It's a game I played when I was kid, and now it's just a weird habit.
What do you think your talents are?
I think I have a talent for organization. I live my life by spreadsheets. At some point I had a spreadsheet for my spreadsheets. haha.
What is one thing you want to do before you die?
See the World Cup in Brazil! It's next year, and I don't know if I can afford it, but I think that would be the experience of a lifetime.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you while in Korea?
I think this was it:
Are you dating? If yes, what is she like? If not what is one non-negotiable quality you want in a girl?
I'm not dating now. Non-negotiable quality: a positive person that smiles all the time. Just making the effort to be positive is really big for me.
Where have you traveled and what is your favorite country and experience in traveling?
I've been to Philippines, Japan, China, HK, Thailand, Bali, Caribbean, etc. I loved Thailand and the Caribbean. The people there are just generally happy. And they smile a lot for no reason.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up around 8 or 9AM and get to the office around 10. Work until 8 or 9, play a few games of FIFA, go to sleep and start again
What is one thing you cannot live without?
I can't live without my phone at this moment and I hate that. My entire life, work and social, revolves around my phone. But that's life in the 21st C right?
Is there anything you would want to tell your Seoulistic visitors and your social media followers?
Thank you for your support! I usually don't reply to emails and messages because of lack of time. But I do read everything. And all the encouraging messages really help me to continue to do what I do!