Do You Know “Mukbang”?


               Mukbang is a shortened Korean word for “eating broadcasts.” In South Korea, the combination of ‘cook’ and ‘food’ has been one of the most popular contents in various broadcasting platforms. Recent TV programs present famous celebrities running restaurants in vacation spots (look up “Youn’s Kitchen” or Kang’s Kitchen”) as well as famous chefs making dishes for their favorite celebrities with ingredients from their fridges in 15 minutes (“Please Take Care of My Refrigerator”). Perhaps these types of cooking shows are common around the world where everyone enjoys scenes of eating. Beyond TV shows, online live streaming platforms like YouTube and Afreeca TV, the biggest Korean live streaming platform, are huge playgrounds for independent broadcasters known as Broadcasting Jockeys (BJs) specialize in mukbang in South Korea. Watch this video to take a deeper look into the world of mukbang from Korea.


            Typical mukbang looks like this: A host shows up eating gigantic amount of meal on the table and talking to himself while he constantly interacts with viewers through online chatrooms. In another video, two hosts sit together to cook and share their prepared food while talking about their everyday lives and telling viewers how good it tastes. Now, you may think it is definitively something new and intriguing, but also do not understand the interaction between hosts showing others eating by themselves and thousands of viewers watching others eat food. Furthermore, some well-known mukbang broadcast jockeys even make a lot of money from viewers’ donations. According to the article, a Korean woman earned a monthly average of $9,400 in 2014 and her online success has allowed her to quit her day job. Top BJs have millions subscribers on YouTube and have successfully established themselves and their contents throughout various online media platforms. They are in fact rising digital, one-person businesses.


               This South Korean phenomenon has gone global as well that you can easily watch multinational YouTube streamers posted eating broadcasts with their own appetites while directly using the term “mukbang.” Food is definitely more than something to eat now. It has become a significant content in today’s social media and digital world where we taking food pictures before start eating has become almost like rituals and even get satisfied from watching others eat delicious food. So why is this concept of mukbang became the trend recently?

            Above all, demographic changes have led to a rapid increase in the number of people living alone, which can be explained by the fact that the number of single-person households is increasing. Nowadays, our society seems to be deepening the disintegration of the family. The most obvious aspect is that it is difficult to see the whole family gathering for dinner every night. The lack of existing emotional dependence on others, particularly family members, may have led to the rise of desire to forget the loneliness. For example, those living in single-person households have to do anything by themselves, but since it is not a simple matter to eat alone, it can be said that the loneliness of eating alone is gone while watching mukbang. Listening to hosts and reading conversations from different viewers can make you feel that you are not alone. Although they are not with you in reality, especially millennials living in the world of social media and online presence are accustomed to virtual reality enough.


            In addition, changes in consumption trends have helped the growth of mukbang. There have been a lot of changes in food consumption trends throughout recent years. A number of consumers seeking healthy eating habits tend to eat less and restrain from eating junk food that are paradoxically delicious in most cases. In comparison, mukbang BJs are famous for eating massive amount of food like tens of chicken wings or as many as 10 hamburgers at once. Some viewers pay hosts and ask them to eat things they would love to. That way they could get secondhand satisfactions. Some people also try to avoid eating out, convenient but perceived as unhealthy. For them, menus that streamers eat give ideas for new recipes as well as what viewers would buy at grocery store to cook at home.


            The last factor is a change in consumer desire. It ties with the idea of feeling secondhand satisfaction as mentioned above. As the frustration of the desire for complaints about difficult economic conditions to live, difficulties in getting jobs, and political unrest grow, too many people, youngsters in particular, are stressed out and looking for ways to relieve. I believe that it is natural human instinct that people are more obsessed with the desire to eat among different psychological needs. Mukbang fulfills such eating desire and that is way it continues to gain popularity as more and more people feel happy watching other eat even if they do not eat it themselves. Besides, the desire for well-being, which is treasured in the difficult economic realities, is getting bigger and bigger, so that it is possible to solve the problem of eating good food without actually eating anything.


            Most importantly though, the widespread mukbang phenomenon would have not been possible without the great influence of the internet and social media platforms these days. Online audiovisual broadcasting is relatively new concept of broadcast platform. In fact, televised network viewership ratings keep decreasing while the new age of media consumers is watching online live streaming shows more than TV shows. Even saying mukbang hosts makes people think of those internet BJs before televised celebrities. The word mukbang also has become the definition of “scene of eating” in general. Hence, it is not just a reference to “eating show” anymore: mukbang can be seen as culture.



  1. Haha I loved this post, and you described it very well. Great job! I wholeheartedly agree with the factors you discussed regarding mukbang’s success the past few years, especially people’s desire to connect in some way while they eat at home alone (sadly). At first, I thought the idea of watching others eat as a program was one of the stupidest ideas out there, thinking that I would rather go out and eat with my friends than watching complete strangers eat them. Although I don’t hate it as much as I did now, I cannot agree more with food becoming more of a tool that connects and entertains people (with people taking pics right before eating and so forth). The growing trend of people connecting on social media rather than physically meeting others (only a few occasions) and the urge to share what one’s been up to to his/her friends, I believe, helped ideas like mukbang to go viral. If social media/online streaming websites is not the main platform of communication, I highly doubt mukbang would have been as successful as it would have been the past few years.

  2. I thought this post was wildly intriguing. I’ve never heard of Mukbang but I have seen people rise to internet celebrity by eating and reviewing. I think it is so wild that people can make a living on having people watch them eat food, but cheers to them for figuring it out. I liked your point of the second hand relief by watching these people eat in order to destress from the day. Personally, I think it would make me more mad because I’m watching someone else eat this delicious food that I can’t have. Solid post, thanks for the new entertainment.

  3. Cool post. I had never heard of this phenomenon, but 2nd hand satisfaction is an interesting concept. Nobody really eats a meal “alone” with social media right? Happiness is a mindful practice, and stress and anxiety are not solely on the young. I wholeheartedly agree that family relations tend to be affected a lot by social media and our constant need to be stimulated. I am just as guilty. As for the guy that eats 10 burgers, be happy for a fast metabolism! haha. Not for this guy unless marathon training.

  4. Nice post. I doubt I would have ever heard about this if a student hadn’t blogged about it. Thanks!

  5. This makes me think of Epic Meal Time. If you haven’t watched them, you’re missing out on some great “bacon weave” action. Matt Stonie also has a great channel. I grew up on these, but it seems like MukBang takes it to another level. Whereas channels like Epic Meal Time make money from YouTube ads and merchandising, it seems like MukBang hosts are much more interactive with their audience, adding a nice personal touch to the gluttony.

  6. I hadn’t heard of this before so thank you! I have seen Matt Stonie challenges as Bobby mentioned, and those are actually very entertaining. I think it is interesting how food has always been something that brings people together and helps them connect, and at the same time, this has a weird disconnected aspect to it. Although the people doing the mukbang can connect with their fans with live chats, I feel as though it takes some of the family aspects away from the meal, as it is only one person eating digitally with lots of other people. I do think its interesting that so many people are interested in viewing other people eat massive amounts of food. I think it can be funny, but I’m not sure how these audiences stay for some of the longer streams.

  7. Interesting post! I actually have heard about this since it is an intriguing trend in Asia, especially in Korea and Japan. I think the mukbang is fulfilling the craziness of people’s exploitation to some extent, and they got to be widespread due to the booming of streaming broadcast. I actually just watched a video about a blogger telling her story of being an mukbang. She represents a group who somehow is capable to consume a tremendous amount of food. Video streaming helps her cover the expense of eating and gain followers in the Internet.

  8. I have been aware of the mukbang craze before reading this blogpost but this has been an interesting read nevertheless. My favorite part of this post was how you analyzed the reasons why this craze may have taken off. In particular, I think your point of people trying to forget their loneliness is significant. To me, the idea of mukbang is a little similar to the “let’s play” genre of videos and streams. I think in both cases, people are watching other people do something in order to have sort of human interaction in an otherwise lonely life. With social media, I won’t be surprised if other niches of broadcasting begin to form in various countries. Twitch and Youtube have allowed us broadcast literally anything and no matter what you are interested in, chances are somebody else will be interested in watching it.

  9. I wanted to see how long it took before I finally saw a post about mukbang! I remember subscribing to my first eating channel, Epic Meal Time, in 2011. Since then, my personal interest in watching eating videos has wavered. But I’ve always had a fascination with watching others was a comically-large amount of food in a sitting. Like you, I also wholeheartedly believe that this craze would have never taken off to such a degree without the proliferation of social media. As the awareness of mukbang videos increases, content creators are becoming ever more popular, and are increasingly finding that they can make a decent living out of food content-creation, thereby creating a positive feedback loop.

    I think many of us would appreciate an occasional meal with others, regardless of how isolated or social we are in our daily routines. The word “companion” is derived from the root Latin words “com” and “panis”, meaning “together with” and “bread” respectively. It’s simply natural to want to share a meal, as sociability is in our very nature. Because of this, I think mukbang is a natural evolution of our long-held desires to make eating a social behavior.

    As a side note, I loved your picture of Erik The Electric and his cereal challenge! He’s a mukbang YouTuber that my girlfriend introduced me to. It’s always a spectacle to see someone perform feats of food that dwarf and mock the notions of a 2000-calorie daily diet.

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