“Eat Your Kimchi” to success? You bet!

July 31, 2015
EYK crew (Courtesy of EYK)

The Eat Your Kimchi crew. (Courtesy of EYK)

(Courtesy of EYK)

(Courtesy of EYK)

By Angelina Widener, Korea Times Los Angeles intern reporter

When Simon and Martina Stawski moved to Seoul in 2008, they had no idea they would become YouTube stars with over 800,000 subscribers.

But that’s exactly what happened to the now Seoul-based Canadian couple who produces “Eat Your Kimchi” videos.

The duo covers topics like food, travel, culture and their lives in South Korea from their studio located near Hongik University, the area commonly known as Hongdae to South Koreans.

When the Stawskis first arrived in the country as English teachers, they noticed that native Koreans were not entirely comfortable around foreigners. But things changed drastically over the course of seven years.

With weekly videos introducing various aspects of Korean culture — from food to “Wonderful Treasure Find (WTF)” —  ”Eat Your Kimchi” also tackles a variety of subjects in their “TLDR” (Too long; didn’t read) videos.

Simon and Martina. (Courtesy of EYK)

Simon and Martina. (Courtesy of EYK)

“For Korean and Korean American audiences, (“TLDR”) is their favorite segment because they want to know what foreigners are thinking about Korea,” Martina said.

Still, some sensitive subjects such as mental health and drunk driving were bound to get some criticism.

“It’s important for people to see all sides of the country and still be like ‘You know what, I still like it,’ so that’s why we did the TLDRs,” she continued.

Another recently added segment, “Speaker’s Corner,” has people answering questions in a video booth located in a coffee shop, jointly opened by “Eat Your Kimchi” and another YouTube channel called “Talk To Me In Korean” (TTMIK), which is more focused on teaching the Korean language.

The inspiration came from the idea of “dissolving” the wall between online and offline according to Simon.

“People usually leave notes on the wall, but we are not a book company,” he said. “We’re a video company and I want to see people, hear them talk. They can come and leave us messages and be part of our video. We view it as we are collaborating in the same team.”

When talking about “Eat Your Kimchi,” they make it clear that the most important thing to them is their fans, known as the “Nasties.” The nickname comes from a review video they did for Hyuna’s “Bubble pop” back in 2011, where the phrase “Ooh you so nasty,” became a fan favorite.

The “Nasties” are often involved in different K-pop fandoms, but they are also capable of building constructive criticism and self-reflection, from K-pop songs to Eat Your Kimchi videos.

In order to meet their fans, Simon and Martina have gone on several tours in Europe and Australia. Something the couple would have never expected when they first settled in Korea.

“None of this actually makes sense to me,” Simon said. “The couple of hours before we go on stage is when I get my most existential. I don’t get nervous because I’m not worried of what I’m going to say on stage, but I always keep on thinking to myself ‘Why is this happening here right now?’”

“I did not expect to be on a tour of any kind whatsoever. But I knew I was always going to end up overseas at one point. My whole life my parents were preparing themselves to lose me to another country, probably Japan was their original thought,” Martina said.

Tour audience (Courtesy of EYK)

“Meet your Kimchi Tour” in North America began on July 11. (Courtesy of EYK)

Soon their American fans started calling for them to extend their tour to the United States. Americans make up about 45% of their viewership.

“It’s really daunting because it’s such a huge country,” Martina said.

But they eventually ended up launching the “Meet your Kimchi Tour” in North America on July 11 in Vancouver. The tour has traveled through Seattle, San Francisco, LA and the next stops include Houston on July 31, followed by Atlanta, NY and Chicago at the beginning of Aug.

Before going up on stage to meet their fans, Simon goes through his usual existential crisis while trying to calm his racing heartbeat while Martina revels in her happiness and excitement.

“Going on tour is kind of like bonding, it really gives us motivation to make better and stronger videos because you meet people and they tell you for how long they’ve been following you or watching your videos. It’s inspiring,” Simon explained. 

“Eat Your Kimchi” is never short of new ideas. Future projects include a forum where the “Nasties” will be able to exchange information or advice for those who are planning to visit Korea.

There are also big changes in store.

“We’ve been saying since our first year in Korea, we’ll be in Korea one year and then we’ll go to another country,” Martina said. “We’re really determined this time to open a studio in another place and explore a new country. Expect more food and travel videos.”

As of right now the couple is torn between Japan and Singapore for their next adventure, but one thing is for sure, they will keep their new projects under the name “Eat Your Kimchi.”

“I wanted to be ‘Eat Your Sushi’ but I feel like I can’t leave my kimchi behind,” Martina said.

 

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