Every evening at 8 p.m. in South Korea, a lot of people go online to stream the latest trend — a stranger, eating.
This new phenomenon is called “muk-bang” and was made famous by 33-year-old Seo Yeon Park, also known as “the Diva.”
Ms. Park’s stomach can be compared to that of an elephant’s because every in broadcast she inhales a lot of food, such as four large pizzas, which is equal to consuming six pounds of beef.
Park makes up to US$9,300 a month from her broadcasts alone.
Although the main focus of her broadcasts is eating, Park also finds time to talk with her fans via a chat room during the four- to six-hour coverage.
“My fans tell me that they really love watching me eat because I do so with so much gusto and make everything look so delicious,” says Park.
“A lot of my viewers are on diets and they say they live vicariously through me, or they are hospital patients who only have access to hospital food, so they also watch my broadcasts to see me eat.”
“One of the best comments I ever received was from a viewer who said that she had gotten over her anorexia by watching me eat. That really meant a lot to me.”
Her avid fans even send her money to help her buy food. Others sponsor her with food.
Afreeca TV, the publicly listed social networking site that hosts her show, allows users to buy and send virtual “star balloons” that can be monetized after the site takes a 30-40% commission.
Any payment by viewers is purely voluntary as all channels can be viewed for free.
The service is currently limited to South Korea, although the company has plans to expand it to other countries.
Many experts attribute this trend to a lot of South Korea’s cultural factors.
Serim An, the TV public relations coordinator of Afreeca TV, said that the three big reasons people patronize this are the “rise of one-person households in Korea, their loneliness and, finally, the huge trend of ‘well-being culture’ and excessive dieting in Korean society right now.”
Also, Koreans hate eating alone.
“For Koreans, eating is an extremely social, communal activity, which is why even the Korean word ‘family’ means ‘those who eat together,'” says Professor Sung-hee Park of Ewha University’s Division of Media Studies.