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Oppakkaoli, the YouTube program sensation in Thailand!

Seung-beom Kim (Class of 2014, Kookmin University International School), together with his colleagues, broadcasts a Thai program through YouTube. His program Oppakkaoli channel became a hot sensation among internet users as it has reached 2,234,946 accumulated views (as of July 9th). This program has sparked another Korean fever in Thailand as it has been reported in the news, entertainment programs, and other media outlets. Thai businesses sent love calls and CJ E&M company decided to support Oppakkaoli’s promotion in Korea. What is Oppakkaoli that has realized such amazing achievement in just four months?

 

 

Please introduce yourself.
I am Seung-beom Kim, an exchange student from Thailand. But I am not a Thai national because I am a natural-born Korean citizen. My family immigrated to Thailand so I spent my teens and early 20s in Thailand so I naturally studied in a Thai university. Fortunately, I got a chance to study in Kookmin University as an exchange student since the second semester in 2014 until this current semester. I am presently operating a program in YouTube called Oppakkaolli.

What does Oppakkaolli mean?
You already know what Oppa means and Kkaolli means Korea in Thai. I really thought hard about the program’s name. I came up with a name that maintains the identity of Korea while being easily remembered among Thai people.

Why didn’t you use the Thai word for Oppa?
Since Korean fever swept across Thailand, Oppa is understood by most Thai people. As we call our seniors ‘Senpai,’ there is no one in Thailand who does not know what Oppa mean.

What was the reason why you conceptualized the Thai program in YouTube?
I started the program in the hope that Koreans would know about Thailand and likewise, the Thai people can learn about Korea. Actually, Koreans rarely know anything about Thailand. They just recognize Thailand as one of the tourist sites in South-East Asia. According to my experience, there is so much more to explore in Thailand than just being a charming tourist site. I wanted to be the bridge that connects Thailand and Korea.

Introduce your team members.
Oppakkaolli is composed of Seung-beom, Jin-gi, and Rak-gyun. Unlike me, Jin-gi went to Thailand as an exchange student. He is mainly in-charge of business-related matters. Rak-gyun has no connection with Thailand but he is in-charge of video recording and editing. I manage broadcasting contents.

 

 

▲ Oppakkaolli produced a total of 11 episodes for 4 months.

 

How do you produce the program?
It takes at least a week to come up with an episode. The three of us get together and conceptualize the show on the spot. Rak-gyun and I can operate the video editing tool and a staff in Thailand works on translation and subtitles. We did our program without any concrete plans but since we concluded an agreement with DIA TV, an expert will come to discuss with us and develop the program starting in August.

You mentioned DIA TV. Does this mean that you have an agency?
Yes. We officially concluded an agreement with DIA TV of CJ E&M. It is the business that supports one-person content creators like us. Through this collaboration, we receive support with things like recording, studio set-up, video editing, and content production. It was difficult for us to run the program by ourselves since our recording devices were not good and not one of us studied or majored in video production. So with our agreement with DIA TV, we expect to present better quality programs from now on.

What was the most memorable episode of your program?
The most memorable episode was the special on Thai pronunciation. I vividly remember the time when we recorded that particular episode. It was the first day of the new semester, which was March 2nd. When I woke up in the morning, the battery of my mobile phone was almost drained. There was frenzy as netizens exploded in our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube social media accounts. The content went viral as the number of views reached over thousands. Moreover, the number of new members in the fan page of my Facebook account reached over 15,000 people in just one day. The video was shared thousands of times and the real-time issue made us the trending topic in Twitter in Thailand. From that time on, some companies called us and asked us if it was okay to copy the program as it was really fun. Some even asked us for interviews. It was the first day of the new semester but I was not able to concentrate on other things except looking at my mobile phone.

It is like ‘becoming a star all of a sudden.’
Yes, that’s it. We were not ready at all but all of a sudden, we became popular. It was really surprising and I was so grateful. I am not sure if I could keep running this program without this special pronunciation episode that went viral.

You have lived in Thailand for a long time now but you still have a hard time pronouncing Thai words. Is this some kind of plot that you set for your program?
Thai language is very difficult to learn and has many intonations. There are pronunciations that make me frustrated no matter how hard I try. These words can only be pronounced by Thai natives. I went to Thailand not when I was still young, but when I was already in first grade at middle school so my native tongue is Korean. Until now, I meet Thai people several times a week and I still study the Thai language in a language exchange program.

 

▲ A photo taken while having a fan meet and greet event in Thailand.

 

How popular are you in Thailand?
It is hard to say how popular we are. We just started the program four months ago. But people already recognize us when we are out in public and they show their interest in us.

You are really humble. You said you just had a fan meeting in Thailand!
I am very shy about it (laughs). In April, we happened to visit Thailand for a few days. At that time, a Thai company sponsored our fan meeting at a clothing shop in a department store. We signed autographs, took photos, and held various activities. About 250 people came. Some of them came to the airport to welcome us and to say goodbye.

What was the name of the company that sponsored you?
It is a confectionary company with the brand name Masitta. This company is very interested in the Korean fever. Masitta is a snack that is loved by the Thai people and the model of its commercial is Gyu-hyeon of Super Junior. They were looking for personalities who could naturally advertise their products through the internet and they eventually contacted us. In our fan meeting, they paid for everything (the venue, etc.). It was too much for us. Ha, ha!

Do you often have such sponsorship proposals?
To YouTube creators like us, PPL proposal is often offered. It is difficult to handle business-related matters when we are in Korea so they communicate with us when we go to Thailand. They mainly keep in touch with the local staff.

Are you recognized by people when you walk on the street?
Honestly, I am not recognized by people when I walk alone. We are recognized by the public when the three of us are together.

 

▲ Oppakkaolli appeared in a morning program of Channel 3, a Thai public broadcasting station.

▲ Oppakkaolli is introduced in various media outlets in Thailand such as entertainment and news programs.

 

 

You appeared on a TV show in Thailand. Please tell us more about this.
We were invited to a program called Banpraram 4 broadcasted by Channel 3. Channel 3 is a public broadcasting station in Thailand. Banpraram 4 is a live morning program that is watched by many Thais. It is a program similar to Morning Wide in Korea that deals with current affairs, economy, health, and entertainment. We appeared in a segment that introduced people who have become trending issues in social media and the internet. We also appeared in cable TV talk shows several times already.

You may have your debut in Thailand as an entertainer.
No one from any entertainment agency contacted us but if there will be one, I will refuse their proposal. I know who I am. There are many things that can be done through the internet so I will work only through an online platform.

What do you think about having a program like ‘Non-Summit’ in Thailand?
That would be nice if there is a program like that. But I will never become a singer or actor on TV. I am not talented at all.

How well are you recognized in Korea?
Those who once lived in Thailand or people who have connections with Thailand recognize us in Korea. Once, we were invited to the Department of Thai at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. After watching our program, the staff contacted us and invited us in the Thai class. The professor knew us and said we were already famous. They appreciate what we do in our programs and they said that we should be proud of ourselves as teachers of Thai language.

 

▲ Members of Oppakkaolli (Jin-gi, Rak-gyun, and Seung-beom from the left)

 

What is the most difficult thing in handling your YouTube program?
It is a concern shared by all Youtubers and a dilemma that cannot be easily solved. It is the concept of our program or presentation. We are still confused on how to clearly establish the identity of our program Oppakkaolli. I prefer British men’s style since it is gentle. But Gin-gi sometimes goes out of his mind and he likes the Cuckoo Crew style. There are some things that we disagree about and sometimes, things do not go well among us.

I feel that you are the Korean representative in Thailand and at the same time, the Thai cultural mission in Korea.
I really want to become the bridge between the two countries. In the O/X special quiz episode, there was a question about a king. In Thailand, people genuinely respect their king. We were very cautious in dealing with this issue. But we wanted to show that Koreans were also trying to understand the Thai culture. That’s why we requested that in dealing with the issue of Korean War, we should not harm each other’s feelings but instead, create a good relationship.

Was there any crisis you encountered while broadcasting the program?
In the special episode that observed the response of Koreans to Mama Cup Tom Yum Ramen, people asked, “Do Thai people eat Ramen?” I thought people were not sure whether people in Thailand eat ramen or not so we did not edit that part. Before uploading the program, I showed it to my Thai friend and he got mad because it was as if we were ignoring Thailand. Thankfully, we were able to edit that part before broadcasting the episode.

I thought Ramen is only enjoyed in Korea and Japan. But it seems that this is not the case.
That’ what I am saying! Ramen is really loved by people all over the world.
There must be an understanding of the country’s culture. You have to seriously study about it.
To a large extent, issues involving politics, religion, and emotions are part of a particular culture. There are many sensitive issues in Thailand. I keep studying about social issues so I will not touch such sensitive issues in my program. I have lived in Thailand for about seven to eight years now. So in general, I have learned about the issues that would be disliked by the Thai people. However, there are many more things that I have yet to discover so I keep studying about Thai culture.

Don’t you think that you have to study more about Korean culture?
Since Korean is my mother tongue, I think I already know a lot about Korean culture. I also went to the military. If I need to study more, I think it is better that I learn about Thai culture and language. There are many differences even in small things so I have to get used to them. Through the knowledge that I have gained, our program will be more understood and recognized by the public.

 

▲ We met Seung-beom Kim at a café in Sincheon. He smiles brightly while looking at the camera.

 

You have set Kookmin University as the background of your program. Is there a reason for this?
Kookmin University campus has a beautiful view, and it is also known for beautiful and handsome students. Since the target audience of our program is women in their teenage years up to their 30s, it is suitable to have young guests and hosts. It is also because I have great affection for Kookmin University.

You must really love Kookmin University!
Although it has only been a year, I am proud of being a part of Kookmin University. I really like the people here. Students who have stayed in campus for four years may not be aware, but I was very impressed by the good educational facilities and beautiful campus of Kookmin University. For the first time in my life, I saw cherry blossoms in March. It was also very nice to see the autumn foliage during fall season. Whenever I have a spare time, I drive around the campus of Kookmin University. I also love walking on the campus grounds.

Do you plan to keep broadcasting the Oppakkaolli program after going back to Thailand?
We will continue making the program even for Koreans living in Thailand. Upon the recent revision of the Immigration Law in Thailand, Koreans are being much treated better in Thailand. In some ways, we are the representatives of the Korean people in Thailand so if we keep showing good behavior, the Koreans will be looked at more positively and accepted by the Thai people.

Don’t you think that it would be more difficult to record if you go to Thailand?
The three of us plan to go to Thailand. We will make something different from what we do now. We plan to produce programs that we enjoy making such as Korean language lessons or exploration of attractions and delicacies in Thailand.

Is there anything else that you want to do?
If given the chance, I would introduce Kookmin University in Thailand. We have recorded our programs inside the campus without showing the Kookmin University logo or directly mentioning the university. Before going back to Thailand, I want to present Kookmin University or show the campus grounds at the background. Even in Thailand, I want to introduce Kookmin University’s exchange program and curriculum.

What is the ultimate goal of Oppakkaolli team?
As a joke, we often say, “Our final goal is guesting Nichkhun in our show!” It is our dream to invite Nichkhun as a guest in our program. Ah… We are going to be criticized by this…. It is like inviting Lionel Messi to our neighborhood soccer play (laughs). As I said, it is our ultimate goal since it is always good to set our goals high.

 

View the Oppakkaolli program in YouTube : www.youtube.com/oppakkaoli
Go to Oppakkaolli’s Facebook page : www.facebook.com/oppakkaoli

 

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