A thumbnail for a South Korean muk-bang YouTube video
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Mukbang (or muk-bang) is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large quantities of food while interacting with their audience. Usually done through an internet webcast (such streaming platforms include Afreeca), mukbang became popular in South Korea in the 2010s. Foods ranging from pizza to noodles are consumed in front of a camera for an internet audience (who pay or not, depending on which platform one is watching).
In each broadcast, a host will often interact with their viewers through online chatrooms. With the rising popularity of these eating shows, hosts have found lucrative ways of benefiting from the online show. Many hosts generate revenue through mukbang, by accepting donations or partnering with advertising networks.
Other genres of mukbang include "cook-bang" (cooking and eating) shows. The idea of socializing with an audience remains the same, however; the host would then eat what was cooked and describe to the audience what was consumed.
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.tv to begin trialling 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.
History of mukbang
Reasons for popularity
There are several explanations given by various scholars. Jeff Yang, an Asian-American cultural critic and senior vice president of the global research firm Kantar Futures, said that mukbang had its origins in “the loneliness of unmarried or uncoupled [South] Koreans, in addition to the inherently social aspect of eating in [South] Korea” during the interview with Quartz.
Kim-Hae Jin, Ph.D candidate from Choson University, argued that one can vicariously satisfy the desire for the food. The hosts, who call themselves BJs (Broadcast Jockeys), 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.
Adema contends in her article: "food television incorporates the vicarious pleasures of watching someone else cook and eat; the emulsion of entertainment and cooking; the jumbling of traditional gender roles; and ambivalence toward cultural standards of body, consumption, and health. … simultaneously perpetuates the stress of social expectations, and sprinkles sexual innuendos in a venue traditionally associated with maternal security."
Other media platforms
The popularity of mukbang has inspired different variations and adaptions of the “Eating Broadcasting” concept. This trend has continued to gain viewers, create stars, and profit, catching the interest of mainstream media both domestically and internationally. In South Korea, there was a drama called Let's Eat (Hangul: 식샤를 합시다; RR: Siksyareul Habsida) that focused on people who were brought together due to their love of food. In the drama, the characters explore various restaurants and after each episode, the featured foods became a hot topic among young adult viewers. Viewers sought out these restaurants.
Broadcasting stations are looking to capitalize on this interest in other ways as well. Happy Together, a popular entertainment show in South Korea, has a segment where their celebrity guests will cook and then share their favorite dishes with the rest of the cast. JTBC, a South Korean general cable TV network is also looking to jump on the bandwagon with a new variety show in the works. They are planning on a food-centric variety show called Girls Who Eat Well and are looking to cast girl group members from popular South Korean K-pop girl groups. Popular South Korean variety series Infinite Challenge has also showcased the phenomenon.
Mainstream media is not the only platform to showcase mukbang. For example, celebrities have done mukbang broadcasts as a CF to promote a food brand.
Mukbang has also gained international interest as well. The popular YouTube series, Youtubers React, showed various YouTube stars reacting to the South Korean trend and ended with their own mini mukbang show.
Prominent mukbang broadcasters
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BJ The Diva
Park Seo-yeon is known to have been the highest earning Broadcast Jockey to date. She earned an estimated $9,300 a month from her fans' and viewers' donations in 2014. Her broadcast videos can be found on AfreecaTV and YouTube. A CNN segment featuring her drew more attention towards the South Korean phenomenon of mukbang.
BJ Fitness Fairy
BJ Fitness Fairy was a former physique builder who became interested in the phenomenon of sitting in front of a camera and eating, broadcasting to many people online. She streams on AfreecaTV and spends several hours eating and communicating with her fans and viewers, earning about $4000 a week. BJ Fitness Fairy spends several hours exercising to keep up her physique.
BJ Hyo-Jjang's real name is Kim Hyo Jin, and she is a broadcaster that is watched by over 100 viewers. Before she began this phenomenon of a mukbang, she was a translator. As she started recording herself eating, she decided to become a full-time mukbang star. She plans to continue broadcasting as long as she has captive viewers.
BJ Patoo is a 14-year-old broadcaster who makes an estimated 1,500$ a night.
Internet personality Trisha Paytas has been both noted for her popular mukbang videos that she has uploaded to YouTube. Most notably, Paytas' "KFC/Fried Chicken" mukbang video has amassed to over a million views on YouTube. Trisha labels herself the "Mukbang Queen" and falsely claims she was the first person to create a mukbang video.
Yang Soobin (Hangul: 양수빈; born October 17, 1994) is a South Korean influencer known best for her food broadcast, Mukbang. She has 2.4M fans focusing on her Facebook page. Her collaboration with KFC Thailand resulted in 4.9M views (and counting). She’s been receiving much popularity especially in South East Asian countries. Her Mukbang post weekly reach is 12M on average. She has also starred in a couple of TV series.
A male mukbang broadcaster with more than half billion views on YouTube.
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- "Eat everything! We eat what we talk to 'Yang Subin' SNS star. "Eat everything until there is something delicious to eat."=".
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