What is mukbang? And why is it so popular?

Emily Lawrenson

Emily Lawrenson

Qustodio writer

What is mukbang, and why is it so popular? All about the trend
Do you know what a mukbang is? If you’ve only heard about the food-based video trend now, especially if it’s through your kids, you probably have a lot of questions. What is mukbang? Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos? Where did the trend start? Let’s find out what makes millions of people around the world tune in to mukbang videos, and why the trend shows no signs of slowing.

What is mukbang?

Mukbang, in simple terms, is a live-streamed video where viewers watch the host eat. Mukbang is characterized by the copious amount of food consumed during the streaming – think banquet-size portions, where viewers sit and watch the one-person eating contest unfold.

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 does a mukbanger do

What is ASMR mukbang?

Since the mukbang trend has been going in South Korea since the early 2010s, there are now all kinds of eating “shows” 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.

Other popular kinds of mukbang include: 

  • 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?

If this search term came up in your child’s search history, don’t panic! It’s actually much more innocent than it seems. Mukbang BJs are actually “broadcast jockeys” – like DJ (disc jockey) and VJ (video jockey), live streamers in Korea have assumed BJ as their very own title. The equivalent in English would be a “live streamer”, or “online streamer”. So really, the term just means “mukbang streamer”.

Why is mukbang popular?

Watching others eat is hardly anything new – but mukbang is a little different to the average show you’d catch on the Food Network. In South Korea, the trend’s host country, eating out and socializing with others is a big deal, so some speculate that one of the reasons mukbang gained popularity was through viewers tuning in to help recreate the social aspect of dining

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. 

Why people love to watch mukbang videos

Is mukbang dangerous?

Taking mukbang at face value there’s nothing obviously dangerous, per se. After all, eating and watching others do the same is part of daily life. However, there’s more to the trend than meets the eye.

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. Watching others consume large amounts of food on a regular basis could also give viewers the wrong impression of how much they should be eating. A 2020 study which analyzed 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.

In addition, while it can’t be classified as dangerous behavior, mukbang videos generate a significant amount of food waste. So much so, in fact, that following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s launch of the “Clean Plate” campaign to reduce food waste, Chinese media began to clamp down on the trend. Users searching for “eating show” or “eating livestream” in China can be served with a warning notice encouraging them not to waste food, and live a healthy lifestyle.

How to make video content safer for your child

If you’re concerned about the content your children have access to online, you could set up parental controls for YouTube. Qustodio’s YouTube monitoring feature allows you to view searches that your kids have made on YouTube, and reports a list of videos they’ve already watched. This will give you insight into the kind of content your child enjoys, and help you to have an open, honest conversation with them about any potential dangers they could come across online. 

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!

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