Mukbang – Popular eating broadcast videos from South Korea

Last Updated on December 6, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
A guy with many food eating noodles while taking a video of himself with a camera on a tripod

If you’ve read our article on Youtube in Korean, you might’ve seen the word “mukbang” mentioned before. However, you may still be confused or curious about what exactly mukbang is. Not to mention, you may wonder how it started in the first place and what makes it so popular.

Perhaps you’ve seen some clips or stills of mukbang videos, and have been shocked by the amount of food presented. It may leave you wondering: how do they do it?!

A guy with many food eating noodles while taking a video of himself with a camera on a tripod

In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of mukbang, perhaps the hottest food trend on YouTube, for the past couple of years. What exactly makes something a mukbang video? How was it discovered, and how did it soar into the popularity of gaining millions of views per video?

Why are people so interested in investing up to an hour of their time in a YouTube video? And, best of all, can you utilize mukbang videos to learn Korean?

What is mukbang?

Mukbang means a video where the audience watches the host eat, typically live streaming. And these are not just videos of people eating, it’s them eating mountains of food. Basically, a whole day’s meals are eaten in one sitting, except it’s just one big meal that they’re eating.

Mukbangs have been a popular live stream to watch for around a decade already. In that time, various shapes of mukbang streams have become available for people to watch.

What can viewers expect in a mukbang video?

Besides the eating part, people may also get to see the host first preparing the food. It’s also common in a mukbang content for the streamer to order the food as takeout or have it delivered. However, the emphasis of the video is always on the host eating the food, basically making it an eating show. This is what sets it apart from traditional cooking shows, for example.

ASMR Mukbang

Some streamers will do what is known as ASMR mukbang. As you may already know, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response.”

In the case of mukbangs, this means the streamer focuses on the sounds made while eating, such as slurping, chewing, and possibly even the sounds that come from opening food packages. These can facilitate an atmosphere where the audience can somewhat “feel” the food being eaten by the streamer.

Storytime Mukbang

Alternatively, you can find many streamers that do storytime mukbangs. In these videos, the streamer will tell a story, talk about gossip, or something similar and unrelated to food, as they eat. These can also be highly engaging and fun for people to watch.

Additionally, sometimes the streamers may also do a mukbang as an interview or as a collaboration, in which case there will be a guest or guests appearing on the video as well.

Mukbang streamers

Mukbang streamers are also called mukbang BJs. It may sound weird to English speakers, but Korean BJs actually refer to Korean broadcast jockeys. Think disco jockeys and video jockeys as inspirations for this term.

In English, you may instead refer to them as online streamers or live streamers. Therefore, the term mukbang BJ can also be switched up into a mukbang streamer.

What does mukbang mean?

With the term’s popularity, people search mukbang videos and looked into mukbang’s meaning before. The Korean term for mukbang is 먹방 (meokbang). This is a combination of two words: the phrase “let’s eat”, which in Korean is 먹자 (meokja), and the Korean word for broadcast, which is 방송 (bangsong).

In other words 먹자 (meokja) + 방송 (bang song) = 먹방 (meokbang). In English, it could be translated as “eating broadcast.” Perhaps even more appropriately, you would refer to mukbang as “eatcast” in English.

Where did mukbang come from?

The mukbang trend started in South Korea. It can be said that mukbang videos started becoming a thing to create and watch back in 2010 or so. It quickly gained the attention of the viewers. Over the years, more and more people create content and were posting videos and popped into the screen.

Many of these mukbang videos were originally streamed live on the AfreecaTV platform. In Afreeca TV, viewers could interact with the host by commenting in a real-time chat. Since then, YouTube and other similar video platforms have also been popular for streamers to use to host their videos.

What makes mukbang unique?

One of the big drawing points of mukbang was that, although it promotes dining as a social activity, it is also vastly different from traditional food etiquette and societal norms, as well as gender norms, in South Korea.

Simultaneously, one of the big societal changes the mukbang trend was able to get a hold of was the increasing amount of single Koreans and Koreans living alone, who then turned to mukbang for dining company.

However, it may not have anything to do with the loneliness of eating alone, but more so with it bringing enjoyment to watch someone eat, as well as to share food with someone, even if, in mukbang’s case, it happens virtually.

Mukbang in the U.S.

In the United States, the start of mukbang can be seen to have happened around 2015. This is when, on the YouTube channel REACT, a video of YouTubers reacting to mukbang videos was released. It was an instant hit and has continued to be such, having reached nearly 7 million views by today.

Thanks to the video, viewers immediately headed over to Google to search for the meaning of “mukbang.” Regardless of how the searchers reacted to the videos themselves – it could’ve been amazement, and it could’ve been horror – a trend was created.

The first American attempt at a mukbang soon followed. However, since the start, American mukbang Youtubers have taken a vastly different approach to their videos, as they tend to talk way more in comparison to a Korean mukbang BJ, where the focus is much more on the actual eating experience.

The trend has even brought about “mukbang challenges” all around the world. These trends combine the mukbang aspect of eating lots of food with a time limit similar to what you can find in food contests. Much of the time, the food being eaten are packs of ramyeon noodles.

A man and a woman having mukbang

Perhaps the most interesting question here is why mukbang has gained the amount of popularity it has. Many might wonder whether watching others is truly that much fun, especially as it’s not exactly a new form of entertainment, either.

Well, from a Western point of view, it may seem so, especially if you’re accustomed to watching all sorts of reality shows related to food. However, for Koreans and their food culture, it’s quite a different perspective they come from.

Mukbang as a means of social eating

In South Korea, eating is often a social event, whether they are having a homecooked meal or eating out. Thus, the popularity of mukbang can at least partially be explained by it being a recreation of socializing around food, so to speak.

In fact, many mukbang streamers go live right during the most common meal times in South Korea. This makes it easier for Koreans not only to view but also to eat as they are watching the mukbang stream. Especially this seems to bring in those viewers who live alone and may not otherwise have any companion as they dine.

Of course, mukbang streamers in other countries may operate largely differently from how the original Korean mukbang streamers do. Mukbang streamers from countries like the USA may instead record their videos ahead of time and also spend more time talking about various topics as they eat.

Even then, many viewers from around the world may enjoy watching these videos while eating, feeling like they are having company and conversation with the mukbang streamer.

Binge eating and food cravings

Besides it being seen as a social event to some, perhaps an even bigger reason why mukbangs have drawn so much attention their way is the large quantities of food consumed by the streamers during any given video. This may be seen as having poor eating habits by some, but most viewers find it entertaining.

In just one sitting, they’ll eat more than a day’s calorie intake. It may even reach such ridiculous levels as 10,000 to even 20,000 calories consumed! It’s unlikely for the average person to consume meals of such great volume, so it becomes entertaining to watch someone else do so instead, and live vigorously through that, so to speak.

In other words, it could, in a way, satisfy some food cravings people may have. In this manner, it may especially appeal to those on a diet and feeling unable to actually consume these high-calorie foods themselves.

The ASMR aspect of a mukbang video

And, of course, its ASMR qualities are proven to offer enjoyable sensations to the viewers. It is not uncommon for mukbang streamers to exaggerate the sounds they make while eating the food for the sake of the ASMR.

It is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, as many may also receive negative sensory reactions from the noises. But for many people, ASMR is also found to increase feelings of relaxation and enjoyment. Many viewers watch simply because they are curious to discover why this trend is so insanely popular.

How to learn Korean with Mukbang?

Besides being fun entertainment, mukbang is yet another tool that can be utilized to learn Korean.

Learn new Korean slang

It may not give you tons of traditional vocabulary or grammar patterns to work with, but the young mukbang hosts are typically not shy about using the latest and trendiest slang in their streams. Thus, it is an excellent opportunity to prep yourself with some Korean slang that you can try out when talking with your Korean friends.

In addition to current slang trends, you’ll be able to master all sorts of food-related vocabulary by watching mukbang videos. Utilizing fun and unique tools like mukbang live streams for learning Korean can actually enhance your ability to memorize the vocabulary, more than a traditional course book could.

Similarly, K-dramas and movies can also be helpful. However, the vocabulary presented on mukbang videos is far more concentrated on a specific type of vocabulary. In other words, it will be a less overwhelming learning channel than watching a drama or a Korean movie.

If you are completely new to Korean language, you may want to start with our Korean Lessons Inner Circle program first. Once you have gained some knowledge from that, you may be able to find watching mukbang streamers helpful in your language learning journey.

Tips on watching mukbang videos for learning Korean

When watching mukbang videos, try to watch them without any help or subtitles first. This way, you will get a first touch with what is being spoken in the video, completely uninterrupted. When you watch the video again, you can turn on the subtitles.

Note that the subtitles are likely to be in Korean. Once you have the subtitles on, it will be easier for you to pinpoint and jot down the vocabulary you’ve just heard. And then you can search their English meaning on sites like Naver Dictionary.

Perhaps you can even try to repeat the words after the mukbang streamer? Yes, all of this may require a little bit of extra work on your part, but it will only make it easier for you to memorize it all!

Here are some Korean words that can get you started on learning with mukbang videos!

EnglishKorean
Camera 카메라 (kamera)
Delicious 맛있다 (masitda)
Food, groceries 식품 (sikpum)
Kimchi 김치 (gimchi)
Meal 식사 (siksa)
Meat 고기 (gogi)
Microphone 마이크 (maikeu)
Noodles 국수 (guksu)
Pork 돼지고기 (dwaejigogi)
Seafood 해물 (haemul)
Side dish 반찬 (banchan)
Vegetables 야채 (yachae)
YouTuber 유튜버 (yutyubeo)

Next are some easy phrases related to eating. You’ll often hear these phrases being said by Korean mukbangers.

배고파. (baegopa)

I’m hungry.

잘 먹겠습니다! (jal meokgetseumnida)

Bon appetit!/I will eat well!

음식이 맛있어요. (eumsiki masisseoyo.)

This food is delicious.

나는 전체 해요. (naneun jeonche haeyo.)

I’m full.

잘 먹었습니다! (jal meogeotseumnida)

I ate well!/Thank you for this meal!

Mukbang YouTube channels

Here are some popular YouTube channels from where you may find mukbang videos to your liking.

Banzz (밴쯔)

This channel’s host is one of the first mukbang streamers out there, currently with a little over 2 million subscribers on YouTube. His videos are diverse in both length and foods eaten.

His older videos also offer English subtitles, while the more current ones come with Korean ones, making for a great opportunity to learn some vocabulary while being entertained.

[Dorothy]도로시

With more than 4 million YouTube subscribers, Dorothy offers short mukbang videos with her eating various different dishes. Many of her videos have English subtitles available, and besides learning vocabulary, her videos can be a great introduction to many different Korean dishes as well. She is also incredibly engaging to watch, not to mention the awe she’ll put you in with her masterful ability to handle spicy foods.

KEEMI

This channel, slightly smaller than the others mentioned on the list, is one that focuses quite specifically on the noises made while eating food, with less chatter offered while eating. This might also be the channel that will evoke your own hunger buds the most, so you might want to be equipped with a snack or meal of some sort while watching it.

Nikocado Avocado

With over 3 million subscribers, Nikocado Avocado is perhaps the most popular American mukbanger so far. In comparison to others on this list, his videos tend to run a little bit longer, and he seems to especially love eating noodles in his videos.

Nikocado Avocado also often has other people joining him on the eating challenges. Besides eating copious amounts of food, his personality seems to be another big draw for the people that flock to his channel.

Stephanie Soo

Besides traditional mukbang videos, on this USA-based channel with a following of nearly 3 million, you can also find food reviews and cooking videos. Much of her content also includes interesting stories and other topics.

Although she cannot offer you a chance to learn Korean through her videos, she can be an incredibly fun channel to follow in your free time!

Yuka Kinoshita 木下ゆうか

Yuka Kinoshita is a massively popular Japanese mukbang streamer, with over 5 million subscribers on her Youtube channel. She has short videos that are more ASMR-based, and also slightly longer ones where she may gulf down a meal anywhere from 5,000 to approximately 12,000 calories! Besides being entertaining and awe-inducing to watch, her channel is a lovely gateway into modern Japanese cuisine.

Wrap Up

Have you watched a mukbang video before, or do you also make your own mukbang videos? Do you think mukbang is something you enjoy or will enjoy watching? And are you a fan of ASMR? If you haven’t seen one yet, head over to YouTube or your favorite social media sites and see for yourself! Let us know below in the comments!

Now that we’ve gotten started, how about learning even more vocabulary for food in Korean?

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