“Everyone, look at what I bought. Isn’t this pretty? It was 1,600,000 won in total, but I can see that it was definitely worth spending all that money.” In Korea, beauty YouTubers have begun posting haul videos on their personal channels, where they showcase several products they bought to their viewers, along with their personal opinions. Sometimes these videos reveal the price of the products as well. Haul videos first appeared online in 2007, where they introduced new electronic products centering specifically on adapters. Now, haul videos have evolved, ranging from cheap hauls from drug stores or dollar stores such as Daiso, to luxury hauls from fancy designer labels such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
Such luxurious haul videos have become a huge hit in South Korea but controversial at the same time. Along with other positive remarks, there are a few who say that such luxurious haul videos give them a sense of satisfaction similar to the previous Muk-bang content. But there have been others who feel that such YouTubers are doing nothing but bragging about their money through their videos. Such videos then have become much more of a common trend followed by several positive remarks and enthusiasm. However, this does not mean that concerns regarding how this could impact today’s society should go unacknowledged.
The Appeal of Luxury Haul Videos
In 2010, luxury haul videos appeared in the United States, made by the famous make-up artist and fashion designer, Jeffree Star. Currently, Jeffree Star has 6.1 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, with his most famous “Gucci Haul” video reaching 4.8 million views.
Soon after, this new trend reached South Korea, where famous beauty YouTubers such as Lena and Hanbyul posted their own forms of luxury hauls. Lena’s 15 million won Gucci haul video gained 4.4 million views in total, with positive comments that mention how pretty the products are along with some negative comments, calling her out for boasting about her wealth and for making the viewers feel a sense of shame about their financial situation. Amongst those who negatively view such videos have also called out female YouTubers who post about their haul a “Doenjang Woman”, which is a sexist term used to describe women who choose expensive products over cheap ones.
In opposition, Lena defended herself via Instagram revealing that she only meant to bring out something unique to her channel. She also added that viewers should not take such content so seriously, but to just sit back and relax. Another anonymous beauty YouTuber, said the following for The Hanyang Journal: “As creators, we only wish to create content that everyone would be interested in, and since most people are usually interested in products from luxury brands, we post these haul videos in order to entertain them.”
Why are these videos becoming such a hit in South Korea? Luxury haul videos are considered to be a “fresh content”, where nothing similar nor familiar has ever been seen before. Because of this, it has attracted a large audience. “People love realistic and authentic content,” comments Kim Sung-soo, a culture critic. “Just like how those on a diet enjoy watching Muk-bang, those who cannot afford products from designer brands watch the haul videos in question to fulfill their desires.” Kang Yeon- woo, a Sophomore who majors in the Division of International Studies, also mentioned how most people in their 20s are materialistic. “Whenever we walk into stores, we want to buy everything we see. Seeing someone who is able to pull product after product from their shopping bags fascinates us and somehow makes us reeled into what the video proposes.”
Positive and Negative Responses Toward Luxury Haul Videos
Culture critic Kim Sung-soo pointed out that the way these beauty YouTubers present the products in their luxury hauls make people anticipate what will come out of their shopping bags next. “They make their viewers’ hearts flutter as they open up their wrapped products, almost as if they are unboxing it with them.” This is how most luxury hauls took off in Korea, and “unboxing” has been an infamous term used with such videos for this same reason. Some subscribers have also commented that these videos make them feel motivated to work hard so they can also afford such products and one day and use it for themselves and truly feel the satisfaction. “I, myself, watch haul videos because I think it is very satisfying, and I think that some people could walk away more motivated to work hard to achieve the lifestyle portrayed by such YouTubers,” said Kang Yeon-woo.
However, culture critic Kim Sung-soo also pointed out that there are negatives associated with those contents, such as how watching these luxury haul videos are a form of imaginary consumption. “We cannot say that the satisfaction most subscribers feel after watching these videos is genuine, nor is it absolutely fulfilling. They will always look for more to satisfy their own desires, which may later result in unhealthy consumerism.” While there are those who could be motivated to succeed in life to afford luxurious products at the end of the day, Kim also points out that there will be people who curse their own reality, and question why they are unable to enjoy the same happiness. “Wealth is not something that should be boastfully portrayed to the society. Whether or not the YouTuber meant to brag about his or her money, they should be aware of the fact that their contents do have a possibility of creating a financial burden for their subscribers, and appropriate measures should be taken to minimize such burdens.”
Serious or Entertaining?
Amongst the various opinions, an anonymous YouTuber posits that viewers should look at haul videos from the perspective of the creators. “These videos are not made to brag about our money, or about what we were able to buy that most people can’t. These videos are a form of business to us. We always wonder what kind of an exclusive content we could develop, and luxury hauls are one way of it.” The YouTuber also pointed out that if it made the viewers feel financially deprived, then they do not have to watch the videos. “We make other forms of videos too, such as tutorials and ‘Get Ready with Me’ videos. We mostly post haul videos to share our excitement with our fans, and they are not intended in any other way.” To this, Kang Yeon-woo agrees and says: “Just like how we want to share what makes us excited with our friends, YouTubers could feel the same way towards their fans.”
However, culture critic Kim Sung-soo mentions that when someone has so much influence in social media, they must post content that truly has its own value. “The satisfaction the viewers get from those videos only ends there. We should look more into what’s posted online and remember that our acts of consumerism are our own responsibility, and try not to impulsively buy products just because we want what’s being displayed on screen.”
It is not bad for beauty YouTubers to share valuable products and their excitement, and to recommend products to their viewers. However, it should be remembered that this could become a form of financial burden for some people, and could also promote pragmatic consumerism. Perhaps an adjustment is necessary in both those who watch the videos, and those who develop such contents.