SEOUL: South Koreans looking for a dream job are finding fame and fortune as YouTube creators. And being a seasoned pro is not a requirement.
A case in point is Boram, a six-year-old YouTube star with 31 million subscribers, who has been making global headlines after breaking into the property market.
Earlier this year, the Boram Family Co., set up by the girl’s parents, reportedly purchased an $8 million (SR30 million) property in Gangnam, a rich suburb of the capital Seoul.
Boram rakes in huge amounts of money from her two popular YouTube accounts, one carrying reviews on toys which has 13.6 million followers, and the other a video blog channel with 17.6 million subscribers. One of the youngster’s most popular clips on making instant noodles in a colorful toy kitchen, has been watched 376 million times.
YouTubers earn money through advertisements played in their videos or through sponsored products reviewed on the channel. They can also earn income by selling merchandise or through donations sent by subscribers.
An increasing number of kids’ accounts have sprung up in recent years as publicity surrounding child YouTube stars has grown.
According to Social Blade, a website that tracks social media statistics and analytics, 10 of the 15 top-earning South Korean YouTube channels featured children or were aimed at young viewers. One such channel, which features twin girls and has 690,000 subscribers, is Ttua Ttuji TV.
But the success of child video shows in South Korea has raised concerns about the possible dangers of child abuse.
In 2017, Save the Children, an international nongovernmental organization, accused Boram’s parents of profiteering from placing their child in situations that could cause mental distress and distributing footage that might have had a negative influence on underage viewers.
The videos in question included those showing Boram stealing money from her dad’s wallet and acting as if she was giving birth. Another controversial clip showed the youngster appearing to drive a car on an open road.
“We took the Boram YouTube content to court at that time because we wondered if the parents had really considered the best interests of their kid when they made the clips and content,” Koh Woo-hyun, an advocacy manager of Save the Children in Seoul, told Arab News.
Koh said underage viewers could not have understood the content or what possible harm it could have caused.
Boram’s parents took down the videos at the order of the court, which had declared the actions in the films as child abuse, and they issued a formal apology, according to Koh.
In June, Ttua Ttuji TV came under fire after releasing a video of its twin stars eating a giant octopus. The five-year-olds frowned and groaned while chewing the sea creature.
“Child abuse cases on child YouTube channels have become a social agenda item, and we’ll keep talking the issue out,” said Koh.
And some weird and unlawful adult YouTube content has also been causing a stir.
In July, a South Korean gangster was arrested for alleged assault on his YouTube channel. The man in the southern port city of Busan, was operating a YouTube account in which he randomly provoked quarrels with other gangsters or citizens. During the clip in question, the thug allegedly beat a guest and threatened him with a lit cigarette.
Public anger also erupted last month over a YouTube video stream showing a Korean male hitting and throwing a dog as a punishment for the pet watching him eat. When police visited the YouTuber’s apartment after complaints from viewers the man reportedly said: “What’s wrong with beating my dog?”
Experts say inappropriate content is on the rise as more YouTubers take to the social media platform in search of fortune.
“As YouTube gains bigger influence, becoming a mainstream industry, both positive and negative aspects grow at the same time,” said Prof. Yoo Hong-shik of the media and communication department at Seoul’s Chung-Ang University.
“From the perspective of negative impacts, more and more YouTubers want to make content for making money faster and more easily instead of making quality content,” the professor said.
YouTube has become a key battlefield in the South Korean political arena too. In particular, there has been a number of debuts from citizens opposed to President Moon Jae-in’s approach to dealing with North Korea.
Among conservative channels “Shinuihansoo” leads the trend, garnering about 784,000 subscribers, followed by “PeNMike” with nearly 500,000 subscribers.
But some of the political YouTube channels have come under fire for manufacturing derogatory fake news about the president.
“The South Korean government can’t censor YouTube content extensively since the platform is owned by Google. So, some people avert punishment even if they make public unconfirmed information and biased allegations on the platform,” Yoo said. “It’s time to set new guidelines and laws to censor YouTube content, along with media literacy education.”
According to mobile app usage researcher, WiseApp, 31.2 million South Koreans had spent a total of 31.7 billion minutes on YouTube as of November last year, followed by 19.7 billion minutes on mobile messenger Kakao Talk, and 12.6 billion minutes on web portal Naver.