Mokbang is an abbreviation of Muk (from Mok-Dah, which means, ”to eat”) and Bang (from ”Bang-Song”, which means, TV broadcast). If you add Bang to Mok, you get Mokbang, which literally means, eating broadcast. It’s as simple as that, celebrities that show themselves eating large amounts of food, on-screen, for an hour or more. Not only celebrities but regular people started doing it, on Youtube, becoming stars themselves. The start of this trend is unknown but it’s noticiable that the korean pop culture has a big influence on it. The speculation is that Mokbang started to become famous after reality TV became big in Korea. Reality TV shows sometimes broadcasted people eating and the viewers thought some celebrities looked cute or funny while eating. That became entertainment and started to sell.
It started to sell simply because Korean viewers felt very entertained by Mokbang and sent money to these performers. An example of a famous Mokbang performer is Park Seo-yeon, a beautiful lady who quit her day job after her online success. Monthly, she earned an average of $9,400, broadcasting for three hours a day. In 2014, it was reported that around 3,500 people live-streamed themselves eating (many used AfreecaTV, others Youtube). This phenomenon went global when the Youtube duo, The Fine Brothers, from the US, uploaded a video of Westerners reacting to Mokbang. Many explain that Mokbang is very popular due to the fact that South Korea has a big percentage of families with only one child. So it’s usual for them, when they get older, to live alone. When they watch the live-streams, they feel like they’re not alone anymore. So it’s like a mutual company. Many families also get together to watch Mokbang performers to give them some company.
Another Mokbang well known star is Benzz, who live-streams his eating time to be with his ‘’dinner mates’’. It’s a companionship, after all. He got into Mokbang when he went to college. He wanted to improve his presentation skills, so he started filming himself doing what he likes: eating. His audience is anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000. They feel connected with Benzz and even leave messages while seeing him eat. Comments go from ‘’that looks delicious!’’ or ‘’I envy you!’’. Benzz always communicates with his audience as well, introducing what food he’s going to eat. A lot of Mokbang stars are exaggerated, they eat in a fast pace, gobbling down all of the food. However, Benzz is known for his relaxed and calm eating. He eats at a normal pace with no funny gestures whatsover. Some Mokbang stars move a lot and do a lot of gestures, just for the sake of comedy. Benzz keeps his natural behaviour because he wants his viewers to feel natural too. He wants them to feel like they are really eating with a friend. But doesn’t Benzz have real friends? Well, people in Korea are always busy, they work until late at night. Benzz only sleeps three to four hours every night, after spending the day eating, exercising and attending classes.
The audience of Mokbang is hungry for something real, it’s their desire. At least that’s what the professor of East Asian studies, Kyung Kim, from University of California, Irvine, says. He states that “eating is something one activity that is strongly identified as being natural, and spontaneous”. So, when people watch Mukbang, they feel confortable seeing something natural happening. Westeners may think it’s strange to watch people eating a lot of food. However, Koreans find it very entertaining and interesting!
Only one question is left: how is it that most of these Mokbang hosts stay so slim and fit? Well, according to Gabie Kook, food vlogging star and finalist in MasterChef Korea, “the secret is to eat once, and not eat the next day or eat really little. Some exercise as much as they have eaten”.
What do you think about the new Mokbang craze?