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Vlogger brings China and Korea closer together: DongDong’s efforts have earned her devoted fans and Blue House’s acclaim

May 07,2019
DongDong talks about Korean and Chinese culture on Bilibili, a major Chinese video platform. Her channel has over 800,000 followers. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Ryu Ji-won, better known as content creator DongDong, sits beside President Moon Jae-in during a government meeting on tourism early April. The creator, who uploads videos in Chinese, was recognized for her online influence in China and shared her ideas on boosting local tourism. [YONHAP]
The name DongDong might not ring a bell to most Koreans, but in China, the young Korean is an internet celebrity.

Active on four Chinese video platforms - Bilibili, Weibo, Miaopai and Toutiao - as well as YouTube, DongDong has made a name for herself uploading videos about Korean and Chinese culture. On Bilibili, one of China’s largest platforms, DongDong has around 800,000 followers, and many of her videos have been watched over a million times.

In her videos, DongDong, whose real name is Ryu Ji-won, doesn’t just talk about K-pop and K-fashion, which are popular among young Chinese people.

What makes her different - and adored by Chinese fans - is that she shows interest in their culture as well, sharing her thoughts on China’s food, apps and dramas in fluent Chinese.

Her openness to cultural exchange and fondness for China quickly grabbed the attention of Baidu and Tencent, who collaborated with her to broadcast cultural milestones like the wedding of Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo and the China-Korea match during the Russian World Cup.

Ryu’s efforts on public diplomacy have been recognized by the Korean government. Last month, she attended a tourism strategy meeting alongside President Moon Jae-in to share her insight on ideas to boost local tourism. Previously, she was selected as the honorary ambassador for the city of Busan. The JoongAng Daily met up with Ryu on April 25 just before she gave a talk on public diplomacy during a seminar series hosted by the Korea Foundation. Below are edited excerpts.

Q. What did you do before you started making videos?

. I wanted to start my own business after graduating from college.

I was living around Hongdae at the time, and the area has a lot of Chinese tourists. I wanted to create a mobile app to introduce them to unique stores that I liked, so they would have somewhere else to go to other than the usual shopping malls. But I didn’t have any experience, so I joined a video content agency for around six months. My job was contacting creators and marketing.

Where did you learn Chinese and how do you keep it up?

I learned Chinese when I lived in China for five years and attended a local school. My whole family moved there for my dad’s work when I was 10.

Nowadays, I watch a lot of Chinese dramas so I’m exposed to new phrases and words. I recently enjoyed watching “Dou Ting Hao” (All Is Well). It’s a realistic drama about a female protagonist and her family, and I think Koreans will like it as well. I also learn a lot of new slang from reading the comment section because most of my viewers are young. I still have a lot of Chinese friends.

Why do you think Chinese viewers are interested in Korean culture?

They already know a lot about Korean celebrities, singers and actors, but they want to know more about the country. They’re curious about everyday life in Korea, not just what’s shown in the dramas.

News events or issues in Korea are translated into Chinese, so viewers also ask me for more details on them. When dealing with sensitive issues, I try to answer honestly and not be provocative. I reflect some of my opinions because they are events that happened in Korea and viewers want to know what I think.

Have you run into any challenges as a Korean creator on Chinese platforms?

Sometimes I do get comments that ask why a Korean is uploading videos, especially at times when there is political tension, but other Chinese viewers often come to my defense. Recently, Korea’s image in China hasn’t been so good. I try to give an accurate picture of Korea and resolve misunderstandings. For example, many Chinese people in the past believed that Koreans claimed Confucius was Korean.

What were the most memorable videos you’ve filmed?

Two videos come to mind. I really enjoyed the one where my friend and I visited Chengdu [in China] because the food there is famous for being good and spicy. I also had fun filming a week-long trip to Busan with two of my viewers.

Who are your main viewers?

Most of my viewers are in their teens or twenties. My videos on the Chinese platforms get a lot of views from Guangdong Province [in China] and Shanghai. Viewers from Hong Kong and Taiwan usually watch through YouTube. But most of my YouTube views come from North America, mainly from Chinese students studying abroad.

President Moon also recognized your online influence in China. Do you feel a lot of pressure?

I try not to be too stressed by it. But every time I make a video, I try to be as objective as possible. I have Chinese and Korean viewers, so I try to balance the positions of the two sides. When I started, many Chinese people knew about Korean media, but it wasn’t the case the other way around. I wanted people to know that there is trendy culture in China and start a two-way conversation. That’s still my priority today.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]