The Latest Fad In South Korea

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Mukbang: Let’s Eat!

In increasingly virtual South Korea, the latest bizarre fad is watching someone eat online. The fad called, “mukbang,” roughly translates to “eating broadcasts,” where online channels live-stream people eating enormous servings of food while chatting away to those who are watching. Korean viewers are so enthralled to be watching strangers binge eating that the live-streamers consuming calories in front of webcams are becoming minor celebrities in Korean society.

Rachel Ahn, is one of hundreds, that viewers tune in to watch religiously at dinner time. Rachel goes by “Aebong-ee” on her broadcasts and every weeknight at 9 pm she sits down with enough food to feed a family of six! Rachel strategically places all of the dishes so that they will fit in the frame, fixes the lighting, and her mic before going live. About 200 of her fans are already chatting away in a chat room next to the video stream and about 1,000 or more viewers watch as she tears into the food.

The odd fixation on food watching puts pressure on Rachel and other mukbang starts to not just eat normally, but ferociously. Theatrics are a must when it comes to being a mukbang celebrity. If Rachel is dining on noodles one night, loud slurping is an absolute must. Audiences offer feedback constantly on live streams, asking how spicy her noodles are, suggesting she be closer to the camera as she slurps away, or to wiggle in her seat with excitement. Streaming for Rachel usually continues for about three hours every night. Other stars can go on as long as six hours of non-stop eating.

Essentially a reality television show, this fad did not only just make people like Rachel a brand, but also a nice living. For eating voraciously and loudly, the audience rewards mukbang eaters with virtual “star balloons,” that can be converted into cash. Keep in mind that any payment made by viewers is purely voluntary, as all channels can be viewed for free. When Rachel begins...
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