Mukbang is kind of a big deal in South Korea.
Derived from the Korean words meokneun (eat) and bangsong (broadcast), mukbang is gastronomic voyeurism.
Tens of thousands of people log on to webcasts to watch mostly young women binge eat vast quantities of food.
The phenomena has been around for a number of years and has garnered a huge following of loyal fans giving the hosts almost celebrity status.
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Park Seo-yeon, also known as The Diva is one of the most famous. Her mukbang shows are so popular she’s left her lucrative job to stream live binge eating from her apartment in Seoul as a full time career.
Each night she spends up to three hours gorging and entertaining her hordes of devoted fans.
Her revenue comes from a combination of virtual gifts that can be exchanged for cash and advertising.
Other than the possible long term health effects, the benefits for the eaters are clear. Some are reportedly earning up to $10,000 a month for few hours of eating each night.
The benefits for the fans is less clear. What do people get from watching others binge eat? It’s hard to say.
Korea has traditionally been a family-oriented culture but there has been a steady rise in single-households since the 90s.
This is probably due to migration from rural areas to the city, young people becoming more independent and waiting longer to get married.
Statistics show this has reached almost 25% of the population.
So maybe there is a more fundamental problem with society – a form of loneliness perhaps that is superficially fulfilled by spending meal times once spent with family and friends glued to screens watching others eat.
Another theory is the appeal comes from the connection with an unlikely celebrity whose status was gained in their bedroom with little more than a webcam and a mountain of food.
Maybe we’ve delved into this too deep and it’s simply a form of gluttonous entertainment. We hope so.