Mukbang, or “eating broadcasts” is an unusual but not less fascinating South Korean trend consisting of YouTubers eating a lot of food while being watched live by thousands of fans. Roughly translated as food porn, the movement has been growing since 2011 and is now extremely popular in South Korea.
It all starts with ordering lots of takeout, then eating all of it in front of online fans who can send in money when they feel like it. The more popular the performer, the more money or “tips” they will get from their fans.
Over the past six years, the most prolific performers involved have become celebrities with their own dedicated cyber-audience, and many have quit their day job to focus full-time on their eating shows.
It might look like everyone can do it, but it takes a little practice with a few tricks to learn. The performers regularly ingest a large quantity of food to keep their viewers interested, but it is not enough to eat. It is also about performing for the camera while eating. They usually make sounds or exaggerated facial expressions to keep the experience entertaining, and they have to look like they enjoy what they are eating at all times despite their full stomach.
It is not only about food though. What makes it very special for South Koreans is the possibility to interact with their idol and form a community. Indeed, performers converse with their audience while eating: they talk about food, but also about completely different subjects. Viewers often share their concerns and life struggles, seeking advice or compassion, all while eating.
This is a very interesting aspect of mukbang, as it sometimes turns into a therapeutic or comforting session and provides the illusion of eating dinner with a friend.
It has been suggested that this trend came from the fact that eating is a very social activity in South Korea. Understandably, mukbang is thus a very good alternative for lonely viewers who live and eat alone.
For Western viewers, the concept of people tuning in only to watch someone eating food is often difficult to grasp. However, some have grown to enjoy it and have even tried posting their own versions of mukbang on YouTube.
There are now more than 3000 similar shows in South Korea. In an age where social life is more and more virtual, mukbang has a bright future for sure.
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Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
Hashtags: #Mukbang #SouthKorea #food #youtube #virtual #eatingbroadcast #foodporn