|Revised Romanization||meokneun bangsong|
A mukbang (Korean: [mʌk̚.p͈aŋ] (listen), also known as an eating show, is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host consumes various quantities of food while interacting with the audience. It became popular in South Korea in 2010, and since then has become a huge worldwide trend. Varieties of foods, ranging from pizza to noodles, are consumed in front of a camera.
A mukbang is usually prerecorded or streamed live through a webcast on streaming platforms such as AfreecaTV, YouTube, and Twitch. In the live version, the mukbang host chats with the audience while the audience type in real-time in the live chat room, creating a multimodal communication. Eating shows are expanding their influence in internet broadcasting platforms and serve as a virtual community and a venue for active communication among active internet users.
Famous mukbangers in Asia and North America have gained popularity on social media and made mukbang a career with high income. By cooking and consuming food on camera for a large audience, mukbangers generate income from advertising, sponsorships, endorsements, as well as viewers' support. However, there has been growing criticism on the mukbang's promotion of unhealthy eating habits, animal cruelty, and food waste.
The word mukbang (먹방; meokbang) is a portmanteau of the Korean words for "eating" (먹는; meokneun) and "broadcast" (방송; bangsong). An English morphological equivalent could be eatcast. In 2020 the word was shortlisted for the word of the year competition organized by Collins dictionaries.
Korea has traditionally had a food culture based on healthy eating practices and strict etiquette. However, a new food culture has emerged in Korea characterized by internet eating culture (mukbang). First introduced on the real-time internet TV service AfreecaTV in 2009, it now has become a trend in cable channels as well as terrestrial broadcasting. This form of programming emphasizes the attractiveness of the person who prepares the food. Eating and cooking shows are becoming effective programs for broadcasting companies as production costs are lower than reality entertainment programs.
In each broadcast, a host will interact with their viewers through online chat rooms. Many hosts generate revenue through mukbang by accepting donations or partnering with advertising networks. The popularity of mukbang streams has spread outside of Korea, with online streamers doing their own mukbang streams in other countries. In 2016, Twitch introduced new categories like "social eating" to spotlight them.
An article in The Economist contended that the popularity of eating shows can be attributed in part to the widespread anxiety and unhappiness in Koreans due to their country's long-term economic slump. Articles about mukbang have also appeared in The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The Korean word for eating show, "mukbang," has been widely adopted in other types of eating shows, such as those featuring ASMR on platforms such as YouTube.
This eating performance from South Korea has also rapidly spread in influence and popularity to other Asian countries such as Japan and China. In China, mukbang is called "Chibo"; hosts make their content into short videos and vlogs and upload them onto social media platforms like Weibo.
Reasons for popularity
Kim-Hae Jin, a doctoral candidate from Chosun University, argued that one can vicariously satisfy the desire for food by viewing. The hosts, who are referred to as broadcast jockeys (BJ), interact with the people who are watching the broadcast through chatting. BJs sometimes claim to be the audience's "avatar" and will exactly follow what people ask them to do.
A study conducted by Seoul National University found that within a two-year time frame (April 2017 to April 2019) the term "mukbang" was searched for over 100,000 videos from YouTube. It reported that alleviating the feelings of loneliness associated with eating alone may be the primary reason for mukbang's popularity. Another reason for mukbang viewing could be its potential sexual use. Researchers have argued that mukbangs can be viewed to satisfy fetishes regarding women eating, further emphasizing why many mukbang hosts are traditionally attractive females. Other studies argue that individuals who watch mukbang do so for entertainment, as an escape from reality, or to get satisfaction from the ASMR aspects of mukbang such as the eating sounds and sensations. Researchers have also credited mukbangs for allowing others to eat vicariously through hosts while they are on a diet and in need of satisfying cravings.
A popular sub-genre of the trend is "cook-bang" show, in which the streamer includes the preparation and cooking of the dishes featured as part of the show.
South Korean video game players have sometimes broadcast mukbang as breaks during their overall streams. The popularity of this practice among local users led the video game streaming service Twitch to begin trialing a dedicated "social eating" category in July 2016; a representative of the service stated that this category is not necessarily specific to mukbang, but would leave the concept open to interpretation by streamers within its guidelines.
Many people are famous for eating broadcasts on YouTube, including ip zalboon hetnim, Hamzy, Nado, and heebab. There are numerous others, including users who edit and broadcast eating in their daily lives.
Content creators in Asia
Mukbang broadcasts typically feature a solo eater (or with friends) who would usually eat in large portions along with a few other dishes. Most of these creators would cook their own food and show it in their content. Although traditional Korean food is the main food for these videos, fast food or junk food (e.g. McDonald's, Panda Express, Taco Bell, etc.) has also been popularly trending.
At one time, Banzz had 3.08 million YouTube subscribers and held the number one spot among the mukbang streamers. In March 2020, his channel was at just over 2.5 million subscribers. Banzz is a typical example of mukbang. Banzz had been featured on AfreecaTV, including the 2016 Afreeca Grand Prix, but turned to YouTube as his platform after controversies at AfreecaTV. He was assessed a penalty for breaking contracts with AfreecaTV and appeared on JTBC's program Lanseon Life. He is noted for eating extreme amounts of food during mukbangs, and nevertheless maintains a muscular figure in the videos, saying he exercises an average of eight hours a day for health. His mukbang show includes Hongdae monster Jajangmyeon, fast-eating of 10 hamburgers, and Jajangmyeon mukbang.
Mbro, short for Monster Brothers, is a mukbang BJ on AfreecaTV and YouTube. It was in April 2015 that Mbro started broadcasting, and they broadcast twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays through AfreecaTV and YouTube. The number of YouTube subscribers is now over 900,000, ranking second in the BJ popularity ranking in AfreecaTV a year after it started broadcasting, and it has emerged as a star of the mukbang industry with the AfreecaTV newcomer award.
Shugi broadcasts most nights of the week. Her trademark is rapidly eating up to four spicy rice cakes in a single mouthful. Shugi's mukbang show is also famous for its sensory performance. She is good at using her lively facial expression and describing the food and her feelings. Her way of doing mukbang easily caused the consensus from the viewers. For example, she once described the sound of grilling meat to resemble the sound of rain, which made the video more engaging to the audience. Also, the fact that her video background is clean and light is only given to her and the food makes the audience focus only on her mukbang and won't be distracted by the background. She started broadcasting in May 2014 and won the AfreecaTV BJ Festival Rookie of the Year award. Since then, she has won all of the BJ's awards from 2015 to 2017 and is currently second place in the rankings of AfreecaTV's eating shows.
DKD, consisting of the brothers DK and KD, is a channel with 2.89 million subscribers on YouTube. It is especially famous for ASMR broadcasting "real sound". In general, the food is done by BJ eating food while chatting with viewers in real-time. But the real sound is said to be a good thing to eat in a short video of about 20 minutes, especially when food is eaten. It is also famous for eating foods that are not common at tables such as sugarcane, aloe, and honey as well as Korean general foods such as chicken, tteokbokki.
Yuka Kinoshita is a YouTuber who works in Japan with 5.15 million subscribers. Known as a "big eater" or "oogui" (Japanese: 大食い, おおぐい), she uploads daily mukbang videos where she consumes large portions of food. She made her debut in the 2009 Japan Eating Contest, and since 2014 she has started her own mukbang videos on her YouTube channel. In one of her videos, Yuka ate 137 Philippine bananas and caused controversy among Chinese viewers. Many Chinese netizens accused her of assaulting China using that 137 bananas because there are 1.37 billion people in China and this episode was posted soon after the South China Sea Ruling. However, there are also Chinese netizens that don't see this as a problem.
Though YouTube is not available in mainland China, Yuka still has lots of Chinese fans since she established her own Weibo account where she has 2.66 million followers and 130,000 viewers when live streaming.
Yammoo is a Youtuber who has 1.05 million subscribers. Known as big food eater (the size of food), and also provide eating ASMR. Yammoo usually cooks for herself, because big-size foods are not easy to buy. Since 2016 she has started her own mukbang on YouTube channel.
Several American YouTubers have become popular with their own version of mukbang. The concept is similar to the one of eastern versions, with an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large amounts of food. However, in most western versions, hosts do not do their mukbangs live like Korean mukbangers and instead resort to pre-recorded and edited videos posted on platforms like YouTube. Often, the amounts of food eaten are also larger than most of their Asian counterparts. In addition, a lot of western hosts focus on the ASMR aspects of a mukbang broadcast. Finally, western mukbangs also usually involve the host describing the food they eat and talking through their meal; this is not very common in live eastern mukbangs.
Content creators in North America
Keemi is an Asian American mukbanger on YouTube who has 900k subscribers. Her channel features cooking and eating videos. Known for cooking in her college dorm and her Chicago apartment, Keemi also blends in contents like ASMR and food vlogs.
Stephanie Soo is an American mukbanger and a YouTuber who includes conspiracy theories and crime stories in her mukbang videos. Her personality and the ability to tell stories in a lively way have attracted a large audience. Stephanie is also known for her frequent interactions with subscribers because she always likes and replies to people's comments under her videos. Stephanie's mukbang videos earned her 2.45 million subscribers as of April 2021.
Nikocado Avocado's real name is Nicolas Perry, and he is a Ukrainian-American mukbanger who has 3 million subscribers on his YouTube channel. He began his YouTube channel in 2014 as a vegan vlogger. But due to some health issues that are potentially caused by veganism, he gave up being vegan and became the first American mukbanger who does extreme eating. Other than his food consumption, he grabbed lots of attention from the audience because of his frequent emotional fluctuation in the videos. His actions and languages bring him controversies and many viewers have expressed their concerns over his mental health. In November 2020, Perry claimed to leave YouTube to focus on his health problems, but he did not keep that promise and still posts videos to YouTube up to today & present.
Bethany Gaskin has multiple YouTube channels and has amassed a following of over 3 million subscribers on the platform. Bethany specializes in seafood mukbangs. Like other western mukbangs, many of Bethany's videos focus on the ASMR aspect of eating food online with viewers watching her videos to relax and receive "brain tingles." Gaskin is one of the highest-grossing western mukbangers making money through sponsorships, as well as from the sales of her own secret "Smackalicious" sauce.
Veronica Wang is a Chinese-Canadian and a mukbanger with 1.78 million followers on YouTube. Characterized as always having make-up on, she cooks and eats different types of food around the world on camera, ranging from Ethiopian injera, Korean fried cheese balls, to Italian spaghetti bolognese.
Mukbangers incurring income from such videos can earn from advertising. This performance of eating can allow top broadcasters to earn as much as $10,000 a month which does not include sponsorships. Live-streaming platforms like AfreecaTV and Twitch allow viewers to send payments to their favorite streamers.
Creators can also earn income through endorsements, e-books, and product reviews. A YouTuber named Bethany Gaskin, under the name Bloveslife for her channel, has made over $1 million from advertising on her videos as reported by The New York Times.
Soo Tang, also known as MommyTang on YouTube, is a mukbanger with 490,000 subscribers on her channel. In an interview with TODAY FOOD, Tang claimed that successful mukbangers can earn about $100,000 in a year.
Promotion of unhealthy eating habits
In July 2018, the South Korean government announced that it would create and regulate mukbang guidelines by launching the "National Obesity Management Comprehensive Measures". The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the measures, which were intended to address binge eating and harm to the public health caused by mukbang. Criticisms were levied against the ministry: the Blue House petition board received about 40 petitions against mukbang regulations, which maintained arguments such as "there is no correlation between mukbang and binge eating" and "the government is infringing on individual freedom."
A study, which investigated the popularity of mukbang and the health impact it had on the public, analyzed media coverage, articles, and YouTube video content related to "mukbang" and concluded that people who frequently watch mukbang may be more susceptible to having poor eating habits and feel the impulse to eat food whenever it can be seen.
In 2019 mukbanger Nicholas Perry, known as Nikocado Avocado, shared that the amount of binge eating from mukbang had taken a toll on his health, leading to issues such as erectile dysfunction, frequent diarrhea, and gaining weight.
Excessive amount of food is consumed and wasted during mukbang.
There are mukbangers whose videos are edited and the mukbangers don't swallow the food. A YouTube mukbanger called Moon Bok Hee was criticized in her video for spitting out the food after chewing.
In 2020, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping launched the 'Clean Plate' campaign, calling on the nation to guard against food waste. This campaign prompted state-run media outlets such as CCTV to run reports critical of mukbangers. Users on several Chinese apps received warnings about their mukbang contents and faced an influx of negative comments. Later, Douyin promised to have stricter verification on food-related videos. Besides, some other media platforms, including Bilibili and Kuaishou, also encourage cherishing food.
Incidents of animal cruelty
Ssoyoung, a popular mukbang streamer, has received attention and much criticism for inflicting cruelty to living sea creatures before and/or during their consumption in her mukbang videos. Examples of live animals subjected to prolonged bodily harm while alive include fish, sharks, crabs, squid, and octopuses. Korean viewers also criticized Ssoyoung for claiming that some of her "exotic" meals were normal in Korean cuisine and culture.
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