The True Origin Of Mukbang

As a food enthusiast and a citizen of the internet, you might occasionally come across eating-themed fads and phenomena that you might find ... strange, to say the least. One of the more peculiar food subcultures out there is mukbang, the odd-sounding concept that involves, well, eating a ton of food while people watch. Mukbang videos are pulling ridiculous numbers on YouTube and other social media platforms like Weibo, and most popular mukbang YouTube videos have tens of millions of views. In late 2019, mukbang was even named one of the food trends that were about to take over 2020.

That's pretty respectable stuff. There's just one minor question: From where exactly did it come, this simple concept of watching people eating tons of food? Who on Earth sat down one day and decided to start stuffing their face in front of strangers, only to discover that what they were doing was shockingly mesmerizing? Let's take a look at the true origin of mukbang. 

Mukbang is a YouTube spin on South Korean cooking show sensibilities

If you're even vaguely familiar with the concept of mukbang, you probably know that the phenomenon hails from South Korea. As Fluent in 3 Months tells us, it started out the way most online things do: as a bit of a meme. South Korean YouTubers started posting mukbang videos in 2010, and the trend evidently proved popular enough to endure for a decade, as multiple subcultures have sprouted. Some "mukbangers" eat in silence; others are noisy. Many eat tons of food, while others focus on tiny delicacies. Sometimes, the food is ready to eat and they go straight to business, while others make a point of cooking the food first, essentially turning their video or live stream into a strange type of cooking show.

The rise of mukbang, incidentally, was arguably somewhat predicted by the nature of South Korean cooking shows. Unlike their Western counterparts, which tend to focus on the cooking part, these programs traditionally put a much bigger emphasis on the eating part. Knowing this, it's not all that surprising that YouTubers latched on to the idea, crossed it with the popular "haul" video concept, and managed to turn videos of displaying massive amounts of food and then binge-eating it into something that millions of people enjoy.