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Mukbang, meokbang (//; Korean: [mʌk̚.p͈aŋ] (listen)), also known as eating show, is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host consumes large quantities of food while interacting with the audience. It became popular in South Korea in 2010, and since then it has become a worldwide trend. Varieties of foods, ranging from pizza to noodles, are consumed in front of a camera.
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Mukbang is usually prerecorded or streamed live through a webcast on streaming platforms such as Afreeca, YouTube, and Twitch. Based on the attractiveness of real-time and interactive aspects, 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.
Korea has traditionally had a food culture based on healthy eating practices and strict etiquette. Recently, however, a new food culture is emerging 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. Platforms like Twitch even 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 influence to other Asian countries such as Japan and China where it became popular. In China, mukbang is called "Chibo", in which mukbangers make their content into short videos and vlogs and upload them onto huge social media platforms like Weibo.
Reasons for popularityEdit
Kim-Hae Jin, 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.
"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. Food television also addresses and simultaneously perpetuates the stresses of social expectations, and sprinkles sexual innuendoes in a venue traditionally associated with maternal security."
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 over 100,000 videos from YouTube. Another study found individuals who watch mukbang may seek it for entertainment, as an escape from reality, or to give them the satisfaction of eating as they watch mukbangers consume the food they crave while on a diet.
Other genres of mukbang include "cook-bang" (cooking and eating) shows.
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 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.
The typical eating show BJ on AfreecaTV are Bumfrica, Shuki, Mbro, Changhyun, Wangju, etc.
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.) have 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. 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 on her YouTube channel.
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 own mukbang on Youtube channel. 
Several American YouTubers have become popular with their version of mukbang. The concept is similar with an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large amounts of food while interacting with their audience. However, the amounts of food are even larger than most of their Asian counterparts.
Stephanie Soo and Nikocado Avocado, each have close to two million subscribers and there are other popular western mukbang channels on YouTube.
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 allow viewers to send payments to their favorite streamers.
Creators can also earn their 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.
Promotion of unhealthy eating habitsEdit
In July 2018, the South Korean government announced that it would create and regulate mukbang guidelines by launching the "National Obesity Management Comprehensive Measures". It was to establish guidelines for mukbang because it could cause binge eating and harm the public health. The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the measures. 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 are always watching mukbang may be more susceptible to have poor eating habits and feel the impulse to eat food while in the presence of seeing food.
Nicholas Perry, aka Nikocado Avocado, has shared that amount of binge eating from mukbang has taken a toll on his health such as having erectile dysfunction, frequent diarrhea, and gaining weight.
Incidents of animal crueltyEdit
Ssoyoung, a popular mukbang streamer, has received attention and criticism for inflicting cruelty to live sea creatures before and/or during their consumption in her mukbang videos. Examples of live animals subjected prolonged bodily harm include fish, sharks, crabs, squid, and octopuses. Examples of videos hosted on Ssoyoung's channel included the YouTuber pouring table salt into a basin containing eels, removing a banded houndshark from its tank, then feigning fear as the animal tried to escape across the kitchen floor, and a video in which the YouTuber killed squid by cutting the animals in half at the mantle before setting the still-live heads down on a chopping board to 'watch' as she continued to prepare the meat.
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