He prowls the streets, defending humanity from diseases with the power of kimchi
Kang Young Man’s web series received three honors at L.A. Web Fest in March
The design of the show itself is rooted in Korea, from his headband inspired by Silla Dynasty warriors’ headgear and the red marks of pepper on his cabbage-green costume to his base on the ever-controversial Dokdo Island. (Kimchi Warrior screen cap)
Creator Kang Young Man
By Tae Hong
Have you heard of the Kimchi Warrior?
He’s a bit greener than the Hulk, a bit fiercer than Batman and a lot spicier than the whole lot of superheroes combined.
He prowls the streets, defending humanity from diseases with the power given to him by — yep, you guessed it, kimchi — and does it with the help of his sidekick, Pepper Girl.
And he’s now headed to the Toronto Korean Film Festival in May after receiving three honors — Best Animated Series, Best Cinematography and Best Score — at L.A. Web Fest in March.
Young Man Kang, creator of the web series, says he’s glad the series is helping foreigners take interest in Korean food.
A film director of 20 years, Kang moved to the U.S. from Korea in the mid-1990s and worked for a production company in Los Angeles to shoot commercials for local businesses, from restaurants to cars to specialty stores for shoes, clothes, suits, glasses and blankets.
“I made a lot of commercials,” he laughs. “Almost 100. You go, you shoot, you edit.”
He had majored in graphic design at Hongik University and found the fun in both animation and in traditional filmmaking. Still, what interested him was new technology and new methods of making content, and he’d needed the money in order to explore them.
In 2000, Kang was among the first to embrace what other filmmakers had not: digital cameras that came at a cheaper price tag than traditional gear and Final Cut Pro, a popular video editing software that was then in its first stages.
In Kimchi Warrior, a new disease is introduced as a villain in each episode, sent to destroy humanity by the Evil Lord of Disease. The warrior defeats each disease — among them swine flu, malaria and SARS — with the power of kimchi and by wielding weapons like turnip ‘nunchucks’ or kkakduki blades. (Kimchi Warrior screen caps)
With $980 and the cheaper digital equipment, Kang made a world record — complete with a Guinness World Record certificate — with “Cupid’s Mistake,” the lowest-budget feature-length movie to receive a theatrical film release.
By 2010, with four additional feature films and a documentary in the works under his belt, he’d come to realize that the Internet had become the primary means through which people watch content.
Creating a web series was a different challenge for Kang. He recruited actors he had worked with to do voice acting, among them Tim Colceri from “Full Metal Jacket,” and launched the self-designed series on YouTube that year.
“On the Internet, people don’t want to watch a long piece. They want to watch short pieces. They want to like something fun,” he says.
The inspiration for the series came as he found himself missing his mother’s homemade kimchiafter long years away from his countryside home in South Chungcheong Province.
He had always had an affinity for Spiderman-esque superheroes as well as American pop culture icon Popeye, who famously loved and promoted spinach.
Why not combine all three elements into a Korean superhero, he thought.
“Instead of spinach, it could be kimchi,” Kang says. “And I gave him superpowers.”
In Kimchi Warrior, a new disease is introduced as a villain in each episode, sent to destroy humanity by the Evil Lord of Disease. The warrior defeats each disease — among them swine flu, malaria and SARS — with the power of kimchi and by wielding weapons like turnip ‘nunchucks’ or kkakduki blades.
The series’ main purpose is to promote Korean culture and the health benefits of kimchi to people around the world, he says.
“In Korea, everyone knows kimchi. I don’t need to tell them about it,” Kang says. “I want other countries to know. I wrote all the stories in English.”
The design of the show itself is rooted in Korea, from his headband inspired by Silla Dynasty warriors’ headgear and the red marks of pepper on his cabbage-green costume to his base on the ever-controversial Dokdo Island.
In the series, he occasionally dons a gat, a Korean hat worn by the aristocracy during the Joseon era. His robot, Onggi-bot, is made of traditional Korean pottery called onggi.
“Feature films have some limitations, but with animation, you can make whatever you want,” he says. “That’s why I love it.”
Kimchi Warrior was recently picked up by FightTVPlus Mobile, a content distribution company that will make the series available via Video on Demand on smartphones. Kang also signed a new deal to have the series become the new face of a test-market kimchi from an L.A. factory, Ha Sung Jung Kimchi USA.
Eventually, he wants to see the project grow into a franchise, with a TV show and feature films.
But for now, having kids from around the world tell him that they started eating kimchi after watching the series gives him fuel, he says.
“I want them to discover kimchi and eat it and be healthy,” Kang says.