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Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 09.30.52

thinking aloud

By susanperolls1, Apr 5 2016 09:50AM

In the first in an occasional series, Loudmouth PR's social media trend spotter, Fraser McIntosh, provides insight into 'the next big things' that you need to know about. You saw it here first.................

Fancy trying your hand at Korea’s newest gastronomical phenomenon? You could make thousands for eating dinner in front of your computer.

When looking for the next viral trend it’s suffice to say that looking towards South Korea is a safe bet. The country that spawned the record shattering Gangnam style and introduced the world to their truly awe-inspiring television commercials has quickly become known for its viral oddities. This trend continues with their latest foray into bizarreness – Mukbang.

Mukbang, meaning ‘eating-broadcast’ is the viral trend of someone consuming large quantities of food in front of a webcam involving interaction with viewers. These “BJs” (Broadcast Jockeys) will often eat for over three hours at a time while chatting, giving advice and performing challenges set by the spectators in return for money donations sent by “star balloons”.

One balloon translates to 100 Korean won (around 10 cents in US dollars) and can generate over $9000 a month for the most popular internet foodies. Over 3,000 BJs broadcast their meals on the Korean streaming website Afreeca.tv with the most popular of them receiving almost celebrity status (Popular Mukbanger BJ Hanna has revealed that she has had to move houses multiple times to avoid her obsessive fans).

So why has this gastronomic voyeurism become such as phenomenon? Here are just some of the many reasons:

- Viewers on diets or who suffer from eating disorders can eat vicariously through these professional eaters. BJ ‘The Diva” says “One of the best comments I ever received from a viewer who said that she had gotten over he anorexia by watching me eat”.

- It coincides with another strange viral trend called ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) which involves videos of whispering and the tapping and rubbing of objects in order stimulate the sensation often referred to as a “brain tingle”(the most popular ASMR artist, Gentlewhispering currently has 466,798 Youtube subscribers). These ‘BJers’ have tapped into this market by investing in expensive microphones that pick up all the noise produced from the chewing and slurping of food in order to give an apparent pleasure to the viewers.

- They also provide advice to their audience, echoing the role of some more traditional Youtube vloggers, with Lee Chang-Hyun describing the benefit of his job as “counselling about problems they might have so we have a real relationship”.

- Often stated as the biggest reason for this sensation’s popularity is the significant rise of one-person households in South Korea creating a need to combat loneliness, seemingly tackled by these online dinner-dates.

With the exponential success of Youtube videogamers (Pewdiepie, the most popular youtuber of all time, who currently has more than the population of Poland subscribed to him) it isn’t hard to see why mukbang could become just as popular as we continue to test the limits of what internet media is capable of producing.

Watch both American and Japanese Youtube stars react to Muckbang here:


Fraser Mcintosh, April 2016