What is mukbang?
Mukbangers, or BJs (yes, we’ll get to that) might first film themselves preparing food, or order large amounts of takeout food, then eat it in front of the camera, all for the pleasure of their live audience.
What does mukbang mean?
Mukbang comes from the Korean word 먹방, (meokbang), which combines the Korean words for “eating” (먹는 meongneun) and “broadcast” (방송 bangsong).
In simple English terms, you could define the word as an “eatcast”. Fully welcoming its newfound popularity on the international stage, Collins Dictionary featured “mukbang” as one of their Words of 2020.
What is ASMR mukbang?
Since the mukbang trend has been going in South Korea since the early 2010s, there are now all kinds of live eating shows available for people to watch online, including:
- ASMR mukbang (autonomous sensory meridian response), which taps into the trend of streamers recording noises and sounds that make us “feel” something as we watch – think slurps, loud chewing, crunching, and all those sounds that come hand-in-hand with enjoying a good meal.
- Storytime mukbang, where the streamer introduces a completely separate topic as they eat, telling an engaging story, from real life events to YouTube gossip, and even (controversially) true crime.
- Interviews and collaboration mukbangs, where the streamer or YouTuber invites a guest onto their channel to join in on the mukbang. Even rapper Megan Thee Stallion recorded her own mukbang for YouTube, using the trend as promo for her new hot sauce.
OK, got it. But, what about mukbang BJs?
Why is mukbang popular?
Korean BJs usually stream live at regular mealtimes, so their fans can watch or eat alongside them. This is different to mukbangers from the international community, such as those based in the USA, who tend to pre-record their mukbang videos and talk as they’re eating.
Another large draw lies in the large quantities of food that the BJs consume. The average person will never wolf down a 20,000 calorie meal, but through mukbang, they can easily watch someone else do so – just like watching a classic hot dog eating contest. Mukbang videos could, on some level, also serve to satisfy food cravings. Other viewers may enjoy the sensations of food they get through the noisier, ASMR aspect of the videos.
Is mukbang dangerous?
Behind the scenes of mukbang, there are real life personalities suffering the consequences of consuming more calories in just one meal than they should in a day. In 2019, American YouTuber Nicholas Perry, otherwise known as Nikocado Avocado, reported that binge eating for mukbang videos had negatively affected his health, and in 2021, Italian mukbanger Omar Palermo died of a heart attack.
Research has also connected mukbang to disordered eating habits among its fans. While not the case for everyone, vulnerable viewers may feel triggered by watching the content. A 2020 study which analysed YouTube comments and Reddit forums concluded:
“For some, mukbang appears to be a constructive tool in increasing food intake, preventing binge eating, or reducing loneliness. For others, it is clearly a destructive force that may motivate restrictive eating or trigger a relapse into loss-of-control eating.”
– Strand M, Gustafsson SA. Mukbang and Disordered Eating: A Netnographic Analysis of Online Eating Broadcasts.
How to make video content safer for your child
Nowadays, millions of people around the world enjoy mukbang videos, and while that viewership includes adults, like a lot of video content on the internet, it’s primarily young people and children who are really engaging. If your child expresses an interest in mukbang, you might want to co-watch with them from time to time so you can discuss what you’ve seen in the video. This way, you’ll also be able to check in on the thoughts and feelings your child has after consuming online content, and make their online experience a part of day-to-day, family life!