Alzheimer’s runs in Park Mak-rye’s family. Three of her older sisters were afflicted by the neuro-degenerative disease. So Park’s 26-year-old granddaughter, Kim Yoo-ra, came up with an ingenious way to prevent her grandmother from suffering the same fate: Making the 70-year-old star of her own YouTube channel.
“Makeup for a Trip to the Dentist” is a typical episode starring the South Korean YouTube sensation. (Source: YouTube)
With frizzy permed hair, wrinkles and an affable manner, Park is the archetypal South Korean old lady. Yet she seems quite comfortable with the violet background and professional lighting, in “Makeup for a Trip to the Dentist.”
Her makeup tutorial is not so much helpful as entertaining. “The only way to make your face smaller is to be born again,” she says nonchalantly, in her trademark coolness. (By South Korean beauty standards, small faces are ideal)
Park’s granddaughter Kim plans, shoots, and edits the videos. While studying acting in university, she honed her shooting and editing skills. But it’s not just Kim’s technical prowess that makes the channel compelling.
Kim knows how to capture her grandmother candidly, and this is where the channel’s real strength lies. Park is straightforward but friendly. Her profane language doesn’t come across as offensive. Her thick Jeolla Province dialect is part of the charm and humor: For example, “chocolate” becomes “jjo-ko-re-tteu.”
“Trying yoga for the first time in 70 years”: Park’s attempt with her granddaughter Kim. It was quite unsuccessful.
The contents of Park’s channel, called “Grandma’s Diary,” are diverse: the Australian travel vlog that kickstarted the whole thing, a cooking video, even a K-pop song cover. In many episodes (there are only 13 so far), Park tries out new things, from trying out pasta dishes to kayaking.
Park gained a whopping 162,000 subscribers in less than two months after the channel’s launch in late January. She is also active on Instagram, with over 35,000 followers. Unlike her YouTube channel, Park runs her own Instagram account, where her candid voice resonates in her photo captions (which are full of endearing grammatical and punctuation errors). Of course, Kim taught her how to use Instagram.
“At first, it took me two hours to post one photo. … Now, I can’t even sleep at night because it is so fun,” Park said in an interview with ize, an online magazine.
“Today I was anesthetized at the dentist. My lips feel rough so I’m massaging them with ice.”
To granddaughter Kim, the social media project is a valuable time shared with grandma, who spent the past 42 years running a small restaurant and raising three children.
“While making the YouTube videos, I started thinking for the first time about what it means to age,” Kim said in the ize interview. “What I realized while shooting is that grandma is no different from us. She likes what I like. She likes chilling with friends and chatting, like me. She just couldn’t because she had to work at her restaurant…. I want others to understand this. I want to tell others to do as many things as they can with their family. ”
What began as a fun project has become not just a source of entertainment, but also an inspiration for others.
“At first it was fun to watch, but soon I started crying,” commented one YouTube user. “I don’t live in South Korea anymore. I miss my grandparents.”
Cover Image: A travel vlog from Park and Kim’s Australian trip marked the genesis of their YouTube channel. (Source: Kim Yoo-ra’s Instagram)
Jieun Choi wrote this radar report.