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What Is Mukbang And Why Are People Obsessed With It?

by Vrinda Jain
What Is Mukbang And Why Are People Obsessed With It?

February 5, 2021

For years, people have been going to YouTube to spend more than hours to watch strangers do the strangest things. And, so, it might not come as a shock to you that one of the weird things that people like to watch on YouTube involves seeing other people eat for hours- its called Mukbang.

Mukbang, also known as the “eating broadcasts”, has been so prominent in South Korea for years that you can make a living from online streaming the food you eat. Yes, you read that right.

Broadcast jockeys popularly referred to as “BJs” (this is the moment of test for your mind’s innocence) sit in front of strenuous feasts, slurping their ramen, clapping their lips, and boasting to their fans about meals that sometimes last for hours. One BJ has been reported to have made more than $9,000 a month live-streaming her meals since her retirement.

What Exactly Is Mukbang?

If you’ve heard of mukbang or searched for its video, you may have a few pressing questions in your mind. How is mukbang described? Why is it named so? Or, more importantly, why are people even doing it?

Well, let’s start with the etymology. The word ‘mukbang’ comes from a smart wordplay- muk-ja stands for “eating” and bang-song for “broadcast” in Korean. So mukbang means “eating broadcast.” Mukbang is usually described as a live-streamed food show where the host eats.

mukbang-seafood-crab-and-ramen-videos-scoolbuzz
YouTube star Stephanie Soo tackles this ENORMOUS creamy pasta meal

Contest of More Than Just Food

But there’s more to it than that. Often, the host first cooks the food on the camera and then eats it. Some videos contain loud sound effects and food details, while other videos show the host eating softly. The mukbang videos show the host tossing down food like it’s a contest. But sometimes they only take small portions of food to digest. 

It is usually broadcast live on a Korean channel called AfreecaTV. Viewers can also leave suggestions in real-time and persuade the host to eat more or pair it with something else. But with the digital advent, these videos are now also available on other video and streaming sites, including YouTube.

You’ll find Mukbangers worldwide who posted videos instead of posting them live. In South Korea, cooking shows spend a lot of time showing the host to eat the food after cooking.

mukbang-video-is-on-the-food-scoolbuzz
The best translation of what South Koreans refer to as meokbang or mukbang.

How Mukbang Started

The phenomenon has risen in popularity because it contrasts strongly with Korean social and gender norms and food labels. The food culture is deeply rooted in Korea. And many people theorise mukbang started thanks to the rising isolation of single Koreans in the digital age. 

In South Korea, dining out is mainly a social activity, and it is rare to eat alone. With an increasing number of Koreans living alone, they became isolated and turned to social media. So, this is credited to why Mukbangers started filming for others, and why viewers enjoy watching them eat.

Lives are done in particular, where they can leave feedback and connect. Another reason is that some people enjoy watching others’ happiness in South Korea and mukbang gives them a greater joy to watch people cook and eat food.

ASMR and Mukbang-ing

The potential ASMR aspect is a significant part of the mukbanging experience. ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response”. People who experience this phenomenon tend to enjoy watching or listening to daily habits such as whispering, hair brushing, and more.

Many don’t understand the fascination with such a theme. Amplified chewing and slurping sounds are not appealing to the ear, and it is not generally enjoyable to devour large quantities of food in one sitting.

South-Korea-rooted-video-trend-is-known-as-mukbang-scoolbuzz
This image taken from video and released by Nikocado Avocado shows him surrounded by items from fast-food chains Wendy's and Taco Bell.

The Charm of Watching a Stranger Eat Good Food

The charm of watching a stranger eat an enticing – and almost always a mountain of food arranged in a purposely delightful range is just part of the attraction. The sauces’ rainbow and the varying textures of the food products themselves demonstrate this trend’s most visually appealing feature.

The variations of the various food elements express the ingenuity that attracts a broad audience. Cheesy ramen and doughnut fried-chicken sandwiches aren’t precisely significant inventions, but it’s always fun to watch content creators eat them, even if you don’t dare get close to those weird creations.

ASMR and mukbang eating reflect an enhanced eating environment, often based around a theme that caters to the audience’s preferences. It’s also about feeding and the nature of the food and the process by which the content maker eats.

The most successful developers in this area need to find an ideal template for their videos—as is the case in most other social media categories. It’s a kind of creative expression that’s viscerally appealing to audiences, just like other trends.

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