Korean Influencer Who Became A Star Only After Leaving South Korea

But netizens are not too impressed by her success story.

Recently, New York Times featured the story of a Korean content creator who left her native country and found success after shifting to Latin America.

Kim Soojin | New York Times

Kim Soojin is better known by her internet alias, Chinguamiga, a clever mash-up of the words for “friend” in Korean and Spanish. She is a famous influencer based in Mexico, boasting a following of more than 24 million on TikTok and over 8 million on YouTube. Today, Kim has it all — financial stability, fame, and a fulfilling life. But according to her, it didn’t happen until she left South Korea and decided to settle abroad.

| @chinguamiga/Instagram

As a woman in her 30s, Kim felt that she was considered a failure in her homeland. After growing up in Seoul, she went to Canada to study and worked there for a while before traveling through South America and finally returning home. But the fast-paced, competitive lifestyle of the country took a toll on her well-being. At over 30 years old, she was single and without a job at a big Korean corporation, hence a lost cause for many.

I wanted to die and I wished to rest.

—Kim Soojin

So, she moved out of South Korea and headed to Mexico in 2018 with the hope of experiencing a better life outside of her severe burnout. She took a job at a Korean multinational corporation in Mexico, but the work rhythm was all the same in Korea. So, Kim switched jobs to start teaching Korean.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that she found her footing in the world of digital creators. Kim started with YouTube, posting videos of her teaching Korean. “I had zero views, nobody saw me,” she recalled. But once she made the move to TikTok, posting short-form videos on the same subject, it was a steady climb to success.

Kim’s online content is primarily based on Korean pop culture, where she teaches her audience about popular K-Dramas, K-Pop lyrics, Korean fashion standards, traditions, and lifestyle. She also posts about the cultural differences between Mexico and South Korea. There is no denying that the worldwide influence of the Korean wave is a significant contributor to Kim’s flourishing career.

There was a packaging that she came with…She had all this training in Korea, in this new Korea, that allows her to land in a place like Mexico and be successful.

—Dr. Renato Balderrama, Head of the Center for Asian Studies at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León

With her explosive success on social media, Kim’s life now witnesses achievements such as award nominations, magazine spreads, and sponsorship deals. She has also built a successful business teaching Korean online. Her online store that sells K-beauty products is growing steadily, and she is slated to feature as a contestant on the next season of HBO‘s Bake Off Celebrity.

Kim teaching an online class | New York Times

Kim Soojin’s story is nothing less than inspirational, but it has rubbed some Korean netizens the wrong way. Many felt that the influencer’s disdain for South Korea is ironic, given how her success is built on the global popularity of Korean culture.

| Naver
  • “The irony of a person who said she doesn’t want to live in Korea but is earning a living through Korean content and making other people want to go to Korea.”
  • “So, to summarize, Korea is a first-world country, and there is no Korean expert in Mexico. So, she is selling Korea and earning money, LOL. I wonder, if Korea was a poor country, would that have been possible? She needs to be thankful that she was born in an era where she can benefit from being Korean. Korea is not a hellish place, but a country to be grateful for.”
  • “She left because she hated Korea, but she makes money selling Korea, LOL. What is this…”
| Naver
  • “So, she only went to college in Korea and went to Canada for a working holiday, and then went on a vacation in Mexico but decided to live there. It doesn’t seem like she ever worked in Korea, so how did she suffer from burnout? Am I the one who’s not understanding what she’s saying?”
  • “She settled in Mexico because she hated Korea, but she earns a living by posting about Korean culture on TikTok?”
  • “I think she doesn’t hate Korea but Korean people…The constant disregard for boundaries, judging, and comparing is sickening. To be honest, isn’t it better to take a step like that when you’re young rather than living in Korean society while cursing at it and getting hurt? There’s no guarantee that it will work out well, but at least you will be left with a special experience in this long life.”
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