Gritty grandma grips na­tion to be­come YouTube sen­sa­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - South Korean YouTube sen­sa­tion

YONGIN, South Korea — One of the coun­try’s hottest YouTube stars is a 70-year-old grand­mother whose cool, un­daunted style and hi­lar­ity are a breath of fresh air in a so­cial-me­dia uni­verse that ex­alts youth and per­fect looks.

Park Mak-rye’s videos are all about show­ing off her wrin­kles and her el­derly life in the raw. Young South Kore­ans find her so funny and adorable that big com­pa­nies like Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics are bank­ing on her pop­u­lar­ity.

De­spite her new life as a celebrity, she still gets up be­fore dawn to run her diner.

Serv­ing kim­chi while clad in a dot­ted pink top and short skirt with a kitchen-hy­giene hat on her head, Park isn’t ex­actly the most stylish icon.

Yet, South Kore­ans love watch­ing her give makeup tu­to­ri­als, re­unite with an old friend or try pasta for the first time in her life in her Grandma’s Di­ary YouTube videos

“She’s real. She’s not fake,” said Lee In­jae, a 31-year-old liv­ing in Seoul. “It’s re­fresh­ing to see the world through the eyes of a grand­mother.”

In the past, Park said, her life was “dead like rot­ten bean sprouts”.

“I used to think, ‘Since I’m over 70, my life is over’,” Park said, sit­ting in the liv­ing room that she turns into her YouTube stu­dio by tap­ing a broad piece of pa­per on the wall.

“But as I started do­ing this, I re­al­ized life starts at 71 years old,” she said, adding an ex­tra year as is the cus­tom in Korea and many other Asian coun­tries.

Park’s star­dom de­fies the con­ven­tional ex­pec­ta­tions of the el­derly in South Korea, of­ten de­picted in mass me­dia as suf­fer­ing from poverty or as an­gry pa­tri­ots protest­ing for con­ser­va­tive val­ues.

South Korea has the high­est el­derly poverty rate among de­vel­oped coun­tries. It has been strug­gling to pro­vide bet­ter so­cial-safety nets or jobs to its el­derly pop­u­la­tion, with fewer young peo­ple sup­port­ing their ag­ing par­ents as they are get less at­tached to the Con­fu­cian tra­di­tions of rever­ing the aged.

En­cour­aged by a grand­daugh­ter to start mak­ing videos as a way to stave off de­men­tia, Park is liv­ing it up. She’s posed for a women’s mag­a­zine spread, hosted a home shop­ping show for a re­tail gi­ant and will be ap­pear­ing next week as a model in a YouTube com­mer­cial for Sam­sung TVs.

Her fans travel from across the coun­try to eat at her diner where one can get filled with a rice-and-veg­etable meal for just $5 in a re­mote part of Yongin, a city 34 kilo­me­ters south of Seoul with no easy pub­lic trans­port ac­cess.

They love her un­fil­tered com­ments in her lo­cal di­alect, such as a re­mark about Korean soap op­eras: “Those things get preg­nant days and nights.”

Asked how long she would run her diner, Park replies in a sec­ond.

“Un­til I die.”

I used to think, ‘I’m 70, my life is over, but af­ter this I re­al­ized life starts at 7 1.”

Park Mak-rye,

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