“Why try to dance to someone else’s tune? If you sing and play the drums, doing whatever you want, people who like it will come and dance.” “Travelling is done with the eyes, but memories are made with money.” “This injury is also a memory. I got hurt doing something new, so that’s okay.”
Here is a woman with an unending list of famous quotations. Her name is Park Makrye, and she is a YouTuber. Just when she had started thinking “I will have to keep working until I die” she was diagnosed with a high risk of dementia. Her granddaughter Kim Yura, a director at a broadcasting company, immediately quit her job and went on a trip to Australia with her grandmother. It was the first independent trip that Park had ever been on.
To remember the trip, Kim made a three-minute video and posted it on YouTube, and it became an instant hit.
Half-unintentionally the two of them became Youtubers. Park Makrye is the star of the channel. “Infinite challenge for 73-year-old granny Park Makrye… The aim of this channel is her happiness.” This is the description of Park’s YouTube channel. In her videos, Park takes up various challenges, big and small.
Small challenges, such as trying pasta for the first time in her life and vlogging, led her to the red carpet for a film festival and on a visit to Google Headquarters. She curses gruffly at her granddaughter’s suggestions but ends up enjoying them, laughing “hahahahaha” out loud. In two years, she has gained over 950,000 subscribers.
And it’s not just the subscribers who have fallen for Park Makrye. In April, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki came to Korea just to see Kim and Park. The next month, the pair were invited to Google Headquarters and met the CEO there. In 2018, they received a commendation from the Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning.
Park Makrye, I Can’t Die Like This (Wisdom House), a book of essays about her experiences and thoughts on YouTube stardom, has been on the bestseller list since it was published on June 3. They’ve become popular celebrities, with tickets for their two fansign meetings selling out in six minutes. Ilyo Newspaper met with Park Makrye and Kim Yura for an interview to hear about their success.
I was impressed when you tried helmet diving in Australia, and you said, “What the heck. If I die, you go and get my insurance money.” What motivates you to take up these challenges?
Park Makrye: “I just do it. I don’t think about it too much. Even if I fail, the fact that I tried is special to me. I spent all my life working, so I never had such opportunities.”
As the granddaughter, how do you feel when you see your grandmother trying these new things?
Kim Yura: “I wonder if there’s anything more precious to someone in her 70s—a time when everything has gotten so familiar—than feeling a sense of excitement and accomplishment. So I suggest new things for my grandmother to try, and I grow and learn a lot from watching her enjoy them.”
You’ve done everything from drinking bubble tea to paragliding. What has been the most memorable experience you have had?
Park: “The paraguleoiding, where you fly. I thought they called it guleoiding because things were rolling around. That was the most exciting for me, and it was great because they let me do it even though I’m so old.”
It must be difficult to come up with regular content for the channel, since the common thread that runs through your YouTube videos is a person. As the creator and director of this channel, where do you get your ideas from?
Kim: “I usually get inspiration from music or movies, although that sounds ridiculous when you look at our videos.”
Could you give us an example?
Kim: “After watching Toy Story, I wondered, ‘What if I made my grandma a toy friend? Unlike us, my grandmother never had a chance to play with dolls when she was young, so maybe I could make her a toy friend like Woody.’ So we had a video about toys. Once, after listening to the song Neighborhood by Kim Hyun-cheol, I thought it’d be interesting to have my grandmother look around her neighborhood and take polaroids, so we had one video about that.”
Out of all the videos on your channel, which is the one you cherish the most?
Kim: “It has nothing to do with the that I described above, actually. It’s a video titled ‘Finding Susan’. I made it when I was invited to Google’s I/O event last year, and I put my heart and soul into it.”
Your channel has become a hit thanks to the grandmother’s unique personality and the granddaughter’s planning and directing skills. People have said that you’ve reached the ‘boss round’ as YouTubers, meeting Susan Wojcicki and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. What was that like?
Park: “I thought Google’s CEO was upset with me, so I was a little scared. But when I learned that he invited me because he wanted to see me, I couldn’t believe it. When I think about it now, it still makes my heart pound. That day was the day when I realized that my life has been flipped like a pancake.”
Kim: “I feel like we’ve reached the boss round too quickly, but the more important thing is that I’ve gained confidence in what I’m doing. I saw that the world was recognizing the content that we’ve created as going in a great direction and was cheering me on. It made me proud of our channel and gave me the confidence to continue trying new things.”
I certainly don’t think that getting to meet with the two CEOs was purely down to luck. What do you think is the reason why they paid attention to your content?
Kim: “Google and YouTube already have a lot of viewers from our generation. But as the whole world is aging, I believe that they’ve had to think a lot about attracting older generations as consumers. So I think the fact that a Korean grandmother is living a new life through YouTube became a great inspiration for them. And something to be proud of as well. Google’s CEO actually told me that our channel was the one that gives him the most inspiration and YouTube’s CEO said it’s a channel that is going in the direction that YouTube wants. So I think that’s the answer.”
As you have said, you are living a life that has been “flipped like a pancake”. How would you describe your life in just one word?
Park: “Hope. I had no hope in my life. I never thought I’d have this kind of life. I thought I could never live like this, ever. Hope was a luxury. But I’d like for young people to look at my life and have hope, so that’s my answer.”
Is there a point in your life that you would like to return to?
Park: “I’m old now, but I like the present. When I was younger, I went through a lot of hardship and difficulty. So I don’t want to go back.”
Kim: “I don’t really want to go back either. I’ve lived every day of my life as best I can, so I only hope that I’ll continue to do so in the future.”
Working with your grandmother, creating the videos on the channel and writing a book, must have helped you understand your grandmother more. Have you thought about what you might be like in your 70s?
Kim: “In the past, I was scared of growing old. But watching my grandmother live her life, I have learned that there are things that you can only learn to enjoy at a certain age and there are things that you can enjoy regardless of your age. So I’m no longer afraid of growing old.”
Is there anything that you wish for yourself in your 70s?
Kim: “I just hope that I have good knees then. My grandma also says that knees are the most important. I think I should take care of my knees so that I can enjoy my life more later on.”
What would you say to people who are in their old age, like your grandmother, who think, “My life is over. I don’t even want to think about it.”?
Kim: “I thought that there weren’t going to be any big twists in my life either. Like most other Koreans, I thought that you wouldn’t get any more opportunities if you hadn’t landed them in your 20s. But you can see that’s not true when you look at my grandmother. So don’t give up hope. Your day may not be here yet, but it will come.”
Lastly, I’m curious about your bucket lists. What’s one thing that you really want to do?
Park: “To meet Na Hoon-a?”
Kim: “Finding a way for her to meet Na Hoon-a.”
Is there a particular reason why you want to meet him?
Park: “He’s the same age as I am, and we have the same birthday.”
Kim: “No particular reason other than that my grandma likes him.”