Koreans can now pay over the internet to watch strangers eat

A bizarre new craze in the world’s most connected country is seeing some South Koreans earn hundreds of dollars a night by allowing people to watch them eat, donating money if they like what they see.

The trend is known as mukbang, a mixture of the Korean words for eating and broadcasting. One of the biggest and best-paying platforms for it is an internet broadcasting channel called “Afreeca” – short for “Any FREE broadCasting”.

The channel has a built in payment feature, and as the diners progress through their meals, viewers show their appreciation by allocating “star balloons”. These designate payments to the channel, and to the performers. Some of these attract 10,000 viewers per night.

Performance-eater Lee Chang-hyun, a prolific mukbang star, told the BBC that the appeal is mostly about vicarious pleasure, saying: “In Korea, for women especially, the figure is quite important. There are dishes which are quite fattening, so me eating those foods for them provides them with a bit of satisfaction.”

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