For centuries, human beings have been conditioned and sold the idea that life must be lived a certain way, that if you ever aspire to be ahead of the pack and retire comfortably, one must work for the man and remain loyal to the job for the rest of their lives. This outdated and regressive mentality is the precise reason why futurists, rebels, or the audacious millennials and Gen Zs revolutionized the status quo, utilized technological advancements, and turned traditional nine-to-five jobs into innovative, unconventional, and meaningful opportunities. Today, you can earn a living at the comfort of your own home or while soul searching in Asia or sipping a cocktail at the beach or chasing your dreams.
South Korea has a proven track record of pioneering the latest trends
The bottom line is that we are all craving work-life balance and the freedom to focus more on doing what we love than being stuck in a mundane routine. Today, the possibilities are endless and people are earning millions of dollars just travelling the world, making bite-sized content, doing video tutorials, managing online businesses, and now, a fascinating viral craze has formed a new generation of influencers earning millions of dollars by eating massive amounts of food on live stream.
South Korea has a proven track record of pioneering the latest trends that people from all nationalities and generations go head over heels for, from films to fashion to K-dramas to technology to sights and sounds to street food to charming celebrities – it truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than that, they took their food game up a notch and introduced us to the world of Mukbang.
Eating Like There’s No Tomorrow
Mukbang or Meokbang translates to “eating broadcast” and has been around in South Korea for almost a decade, but it was only recently that it picked up a storm on social media worldwide. It is a live or pre-taped webcast of everyday people who consume huge heaps of a variety of food such as Japanese, Chinese, American, Korean, and Italian cuisines and at the same time incorporating a commentary or vlogging aspect to it. Broadcasting network, AfreecaTV, has been dubbed as the birthplace of Mukbang back in 2009 when they aired the first video of this unique food culture.
While food shows or contests are nothing out of the ordinary, what makes this a fascinating eating show is the creativity that these influencers or food enthusiasts are putting in to stand out from each other. Not to mention, most of them are petite women who can impressively devour thousands of calories (enough to feed a big family) without breaking a sweat.
AfreecaTV, has been dubbed as the birthplace of Mukbang back in 2009
Mukbang Korean influencer, Moon Bok Hee, who has amassed 4.49 million subscribers under her YouTube channel Eat with Boki integrates Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR sounds of fizzing drink, crackling fried food, whispering, and slurping noodles and soup that elicit a relaxing and positive tingling sensation throughout the body. She usually orders take out from restaurants of food she craves and sometimes puts a twist on her usual studio set up by taking her audience on a night out to do Mukbang challenges at her favorite restaurants. Boki is famous for eating a spoonful of food in just one bite and usually adds a vivid food review on the subtitle that only leaves you drooling and feeling like you could taste the flavors wherever you are.
On one hand, another Korean influencer known as Hamzy has 4.03 million subscribers on YouTube under the same name, makes her Mukbang videos unique by allowing her audience into her kitchen to watch how she carefully prepares and cooks the food she will consume as she believes that nothing beats home-cooked meals. She has a more laid-back approach as she videos herself in her living room sporting her pajamas while occasionally having her dog eat alongside her. Oftentimes, she would include work out videos prior to preparing her meal. Hamzy keeps it simple and natural by not including flowery commentaries or interaction with her audience.
Eating for a Living
Just like most branded content promoted by influencers in other industries, companies have made their way into the Mukbang trend and forged partnerships with influencers to advertise their products or services. By doing so, some of these influencers were able to quit their full-time job to do what they love most – eating. It is reported that influencers earn about USD $180,000 up to USD $2 million dollars per month. That is more than anything you could earn at a mediocre desk job. However, even for those who are just getting into the game, they have the chance of earning as little as USD $10,000 or more just by views alone and also some have the option for their audiences to donate in support of their Mukbang videos. Influencers say that it may look easy from a distance but it is more demanding than their previous full-time jobs because the process of making a 15-30-minute video entails hours of preparation such as buying or cooking the food, arranging it on a table, filming, eating, and cleaning up everything.
People have developed strong amusement watching others cook and eat for reasons such as it is highly entertaining, pleasurable, and ironically, it is also used as an outlet to curb and satisfy the cravings of those who are on a healthy diet. It also fuels your curiosity and sparks a sense of wonder as you figure out how normal people develop such appetite and capability to stuff food in their bodies in one sitting.
Eating high caloric and processed food in huge amounts is obviously detrimental to our overall health and well-being. Our bodies only need 2,000-2,500 calories per day, but these Mukbang influencers oftentimes consume 10,000 or more per episode, which could lead to promoting poor eating habits and disorders, obesity, diabetes, and heart attack among the youth. The South Korean government has raised concerns regarding this unhealthy practice and has therefore created a list of safety guidelines to protect these individuals. A study conducted by researchers among Korean university students concluded that people who regularly watch Mukbang videos are more prone to developing unhealthy eating habits because they also feel the need to eat the same food while they are watching their favorite influencers.
Mukbang YouTuber with over 4 million followers, Ssoyoung, whose signature style is consuming live seafood on her videos was accused of animal cruelty. Her video, Dancing Live Squid, shows an inhumane method of preparing and killing the squid by chopping its head off, which causes it to die a slow and painful demise compared to the humane way of using a spike to pierce the area between the eyes to instantly kill the sea creature.
Our bodies only need 2,000-2,500 calories per day, but these Mukbang influencers oftentimes consume 10,000 or more per episode
There is a reason why nutritionists and health advocates swear by the old adage “everything in moderation” because it promotes healthy and sustainable eating habits that increase our endurance, improves our mental clarity, and prolong our life span without having to deprive ourselves of the food we want to eat. Balance is key to a well-lived life and most importantly, health is wealth.
Mukbang is one of those trends that would most likely never go out of style. Eating in front of an audience for a living seems like a no brainer, but think twice, regularly have health screenings, and follow the necessary precautions before you adopt this kind of lifestyle.