BY Adrienne Stanley | Nov 08, 2015 07:11 AM EST
Professor Oh educates Hallyu enthusiasts in the myriad of vernacular and slang that is omnipresent in the Korean language. Through her "Sweet and Tasty TV" program on YouTube, she reaches millions of viewers who tune in to watch the adventures of her on-screen personalities like Billy Jin, a K-pop enthusiast, and Granny Kim, a fun-loving senior. KpopStarz interviewed Professor Oh about her educational work with "Sweet and Tasty TV."
KpopStarz: Why were you inspired to create educational videos, particularly those who target fans of Korean culture?
Professor Oh: Initially, there were no intentions of creating YouTube content, on a regular basis. I uploaded my first Korean lesson back in 2008 when there were less than five Korean language videos on YouTube. Unexpectedly, quite a number of views accumulated on my first Korean lesson video. A surprising 2 million views.
Due to my audience’s demand for more content and my interest in filmmaking, I began uploading videos every week. Much of my audience is made up of K-pop and K-Drama fans. I wanted to share with them a deeper cultural insight on Korea aside from its entertainment aspect.
KpopStarz: Do you watch Korean dramas? If so, what is your favorite series? Which dramas do you think have made the strongest impact on people who would like to learn about Korean culture?
Professor Oh: The latest Korean drama I watched to completion was “Misaeng.” My favorite Korean drama of all time? I want to say “Winter Sonata,” however I imagine I’d have a different opinion of it watching it today than when it was first released 13 years ago. “Boys Over Flowers” was cheesier than any pizza I’ve ever eaten but was still funny to watch.
Dramas based on historical events and characters seem to have a stronger impact for those interested in learning about Korean culture. K-Dramas like “Jewel in the Palace” show you the traditions of old Korea. Be mindful that film productions are not percent accurate depictions of the past. These moving pictures are based on references and documented facts. After all, none of us were alive centuries ago.
KpopStarz: I love your parody videos and on-screen personalities because they help to make difficult subjects easier to understand. Do you find that audiences absorb the lessons you are teaching with more ease than when they are taught by instructors who do not use comedy?
Professor Oh: Humor can go a long way. Entertainment is engaging. It may appear that my various characters were created to increase attention spans, however, they were born from necessity. The Korean language uses honorifics, meaning the way you speak to elders differ from when you speak to your friends. There are common titles such as “oppa” and “unni” that I needed to demonstrate to viewers.
My Korean grandmother was thousands of miles away and I didn’t know a place to adopt one nearby, so I decided to be my own granny. My native Korean buddies were too shy to act. Thus, I became my own "oppa," "unnie," "hyung," "ahjumma," "ahjussi," and more. At the time, I used to collect wigs for no particular reason. I finally put them to good use and experimented with various looks. That’s how K-pop loving Billy Jin, foodie Taekwon Do, party animal Granny Kim, and the studious Professor Oh were born.
KpopStarz: What was your first video personality? How do you create new personalities and who serves as your inspiration?
Professor Oh: My first character was Professor Oh. I didn’t give too much thought to this character, for the first Korean lesson; I just used my last name and was myself. For a large portion of my YouTube videos, I developed the personality to be more studious and to focus more on topics relating to sightseeing, culture, and history. Lately, in the Korean Culture Corner, Professor Oh is a closer representation of who I am off-camera.
Every character focuses on a particular subject. Each personality is developed based on their main interests. Billy Jin typically does episodes on fashion, K-pop, cafes, trends, and everything girly. Her boyfriend Taekwon Do loves to eat. Anything with food, it’s handled by this oppa. He has very relaxed eyes partially because he’s super laid back, but also because of food coma. Granny Kim? She parties until dawn and loves adding a shot of soju into bowls of bingsoo wherever she goes.
People in my life are my inspiration. Granny Kim’s best friend Bongja is modeled after my fancy grandmother, who never leaves the house without putting her red lipstick on. She likes to have her hair big and voluminous. Taekwon Do is how I see the typical man: meat-loving, attempting to be a good boyfriend by taking his girl to karaoke, and holding her many shopping bags. Billy Jin’s mother is inspired by my own mother from ten years ago when she wore mismatching patterns and had permed hair. My mother is much more fashionable now and appears as herself on my videos.
KpopStarz: What is one of your favorite K-pop parodies?
I have a thing for guys dressing up as girls and shaking their booty. You can never go wrong with parodies where male comedians dress in scandalous clothes and perform Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” and Girls’ Generation “Gee.” PSY's covers of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is gold. That man can dance.
KpopStarz: Who is your favorite K-pop act?
Professor Oh: As much as I enjoy a wide range of K-pop singers, I am particularly in love with YG Family. Big Bang and 2NE1 for life. I fantasize about becoming an art director so I can be part of their epic music video production. Or at least go behind-the-scenes and contribute to their creative process. Dream on.
KpopStarz: Do you think foreigners have more difficulty with understanding the Korean language than culture? If so, why?
Professor Oh: Everything is relative. If you’ve grown up in an Asian household, it may be easier to understand Korean culture than learning the language. If you have a knack for learning languages but was raised in a culture far from Asia, perhaps understanding the Korean language is easier. In any case, the best way to learn any language and culture is to go to the source: its native country.
KpopStarz: What are some of your future plans? Where would you like to see "Sweet and Tasty TV" go, in the future?
Professor Oh: I have an idea jar overflowing with where I’d like to take "Sweet And Tasty TV." For one, I am in the very early stages of writing a book using my characters. The basic plot is down, but somehow I’ll have to find the time to develop it into a full-fledging book. My focus is currently more towards producing content for my YouTube channel and website. Viewers often ask me to continue “Snack Tub Korea,” so perhaps I shall. Stay tuned.
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