In her early 30’s, tiny South Korean Park Seo-Yeon has found a career that pays her bills and satisfies her favourite hobby: eating huge amounts of food in front of a devoted online audience.
The trend, known as “Mok-bang” or “eating broadcast”, has launched people like Park into virtual South Korean stardom, generating thousands of views every time they switch on their webcams to gulp, gobble and devour their main meal of the day – all while commenting on the feast.
Although Park, who is known by her fans as “The Diva”, is one of the highest paid “online eaters”, reportedly earning around $9,000 a month – largely because she can stuff down the same amount of food as four grown men in one sitting – she is not alone in cashing in on the trend.
Other Mok-bang celebrities include the South Korean chef Choi Ji-hwan and Australian comedian Sam Hammington, but amateurs are also turning to the fad, posting their own eating sessions on the internet.
The Diva has around 3,500 YouTube subscribers, but it’s the number of views that is the most astonishing. A video showing her dining out on an enormous Chinese meal has garnered nearly 70,000 views in less than two months.
Reactions to the unusual reality TV eating trend are varied, with comments flooding in during the broadcasts. While YouTube commentator SashQa Lipton described one of The Diva’s food feats as “Beautiful)) you rock))” and polster2 called it “Gluttony at its finest”, whereas PEWPS wrote that “she’s literally disgusting”.
Serim An, a public relations coordinator for Afreeca TV which hosts the most popular Mok-bang channels, told CNN that the trend is catching on because of several cultural factors.
"We think it's because of three big reasons — the rise of one-person households in Korea, their ensuing loneliness and finally the huge trend of 'well-being culture' and excessive dieting in Korean society right now," she said.
Professor Sung-hee Park, of Ewha University's Division of Media Studies, adding that Koreans hate eating alone and that the Mok-bang broadcasts therefore serve some sort of a social purpose.
"For Koreans, eating is an extremely social, communal activity, which is why even the Korean word 'family' means 'those who eat together,'" she said.
Take a closer look at South Korea’s Mok-bang craze in the video below.