In South Korea, there is a food trend called “Muk-bang” or in Korean 먹방, where Koreans live-stream or video tape themselves eating food. Not just for one, but around 5 to 10 servings of food, in turn becoming a sort of binge eating show. The Korean term “Muk-bang” is made by combining the Korean word for eating (muk-ja) and broadcasting (bang-song).
Yes, these binge eaters are paid by the internet television channel they perform on according to how many “star balloons” their viewers accord them. The most famous of these Korean muk-bang eaters is Seo-Yeon Park (pictured above), who makes $9,300 USD per month showing the world her eating habits. She is known as “The Diva” in the muk-bang community. At night around 8p.m, The Diva eats “four large pizzas or three kilograms (6 lb) of beef in one sitting, albeit over the span of several hours.” The food, of course, varies with each meal; sometimes it’s a bowl of Korean ramyun, other times crab, kimchi stew, tteokbokki (rice cakes in spicy chili sauce), or other traditional Korean dishes.
Eating for muk-bang is almost like a performance according to Lee Chang-hyun, who also broadcasts his eating. If the show is not an entertaining one, the eater is less likely to get “star balloons” or donations from viewers. As such, the food must look delectable while being several servings too much for one person. The eater should be a pretty girl or a handsome boy, and should eat as if he/she has never eaten anything more delicious. Loud slurping and shovelling food into his/her mouth is highly encouraged. Connecting with the audience is also important, as exemplified by Lee Chang-hyun who “presents a constant stream of observation and light-hearted remarks. He might get up and dance to a song that’s playing in his headphones. He sings for his supper.”
What about those sitting on the other side of the screen? Those who watch muk-bangs say that they do it for the vicarious experience of feeling as if they are eating the food the broadcasted eater is gorging on without actually consuming anything. Perhaps, this is why the viewer rate for Korean women is higher than the viewer rate for Korean men (60% women to 40% men) since the standard of beauty in Korea is slimness , and to be slim, one cannot eat too much. For this reason, muk-bang watchers are also often hospitalized patients, who cannot yet consume solid food, or those with eating disorders, who would secretly like to eat but do not allow themselves to.
We’re probably all guilty of watching food porn videos in bed at midnight, so might as well give this a try to see what the fuss is about!
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