The Qiranger channels Korea
In the center of bustling Myeong-dong, a vendor carefully circles his hand back and forth, slowly filling the base of a cone, teasing out tasty chocolate and vanilla swirls.
With a final push of the lever, the vendor passes the dessert to his customer.
“I have a special summertime treat for you,” says Steve Miller, revealing the towering ice cream cone to the camera.
“It’s so delicious. It goes down great. And with the hot temperatures of Seoul quickly approaching, this is my No. 1 recommendation for some of the best street food you can find in Korea.”
Miller has been living in Korea since June 2009, and has been making short videos for the past six years. His website “QiRanger” houses over 700 historical, cultural and travel videos; his YouTube views are currently sitting at over 3 million, and he has 13,000 subscribers.
“I try to choose topics or circumstances that people are generally excited to share,” says Miller. “Anyone can point a camera and show something, but that’s not who I am — I want to tell a story.”
From Korean street food to historic restorations, transportation advances to breaking news, Miller has Korea covered.
“I’m interested in life, news, economics, business and the historical and cultural sites that make Korea what it is and why it is a great place to travel to.”
Behind the camera
Before moving to Korea, Miller volunteered as a National Park Ranger in his home state of Arizona. Part of Miller’s job involved teaching visitors about cave dwellings and highlighting the history of the park.
“It’s not so much about relaying the information, but doing it in a way that sparks interest in other people,” says Miller.
His time as a ranger even inspired the name for his blog —“QiRanger,” with the “Qi” portion coming from the Chinese symbol meaning “life force energy.”
“I have been doing this for six years straight and I can tell you, I think back in 2010 I did a blog post about how long it takes to do a travel video…I timed it out to 18 hours.”
Nowadays, Miller produces anywhere from six to 10 videos a week.
Miller is among a growing number of expat bloggers in Korea. Like Simon and Martina Stawski from Eat Your Kimchi, Miller has developed a dedicated audience within his niche field.
While his content focuses predominantly on Korean history and culture, most of his traffic is from outside of the peninsula. Twenty-five percent of the audience comes from the U.S. and Canada, 50 percent from Southeast Asian countries and Europe, and the remaining 25 percent from within Korea.
“They all have an interest in Korea in terms of its history, its culture, what life is like and current events. So I cater my blog posts and my videos to meet those needs,” says Miller.
One popular topic among viewers is breaking news.
In recent months, Miller has been uploading videos that discuss the ongoing tensions with the North. In these segments he focuses on analysis as well as South Korean sentiment and reaction.
“Through February and March, as things developed here, I was getting a lot of questions about what is taking place, and so I just started doing what I thought would be responsible,” says Miller.
Sara Paterson, an English teacher in the Seoul area, says Miller’s news stories provide an alternative to the over-sensationalized international versions.
“My mom was really freaking out badly. She kept saying what the news was saying. So I would always send her Steve’s latest update when things heated up. She would watch it and feel better,” says Paterson.
His opinions and videos have been so widely received that he has even been invited to provide North Korea commentary on the BBC’s “Have Your Say,” as well as BBC Wales and Australia’s B105fm.
His blogs and videos have also achieved notoriety within the Korean media, earning him positions with Arirang Radio, TBS eFM and the Korea Blog.
A positive impact
Despite his success, Miller says the most important things about blogging are to enjoy yourself and captivate your audience.
A couple of years earlier, Miller met a Korean man whose English name was Dave.
Dave had moved to the U.S. from Korea and lived there for 10 years. But after watching Miller’s videos, he decided to move back to Korea, telling Miller he was the reason why he is here.
“That was probably the biggest accomplishment you could ever get — to have that kind of impact on somebody,” says Miller. “If I were to stop making videos…I’d be completely thrilled with being able to affect somebody’s life that way.”
But for now, Miller will keep adding to his library. He says there are some exciting travel segments coming up for the fall, and his list of ideas is continually growing.
“As long as I have the ability to (make videos), and as long as it is fun for me, then it is something I am going to do.”
You can also view Miller’s videos via his YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/user/qiranger). He is also a regular contributor at TBS eFM, Arirang Radio and the Korea Blog.