Making Sense of Korea's Bizzare Food Porn Industry

South Korea's food porn industry is a hit
Taken without permission from
There's something about evolution that strikes a cord with me. No, I don't mean evolution of pokemon characters where they seem to get mutated and utterly banjaxed and then...somehow turn into this super, never-seen-before self that rips apart every other poor character in the scene. No pikachu to raichu here, I am sorry. You will have probably have to go somewhere else to read about that.

The evolution I am talking about is the natural evolution that darwin first brought forth. Even for a biological bum like me, I am drawn towards the idea that environment forces natural selection and  that selective process induces a slow, time dependent mutation that allowed us to become who we are and how we behave today. The core notion that we are here at this moment, reading or doodling or sleep walking or falling off the stairs means that our ancestors were able to survive through that dreaded, unpredictable environment and pass on the genes we have inside within us today.

To be honest, it's as fascinating as watching steven gerrard screw up every single season for liverpool. My, my haha. But let's not get too much into gerrard's evolution of footballing mishaps, shall we? I have this eerie feeling that I am being watched by stalking liverpool fans who are very good at letting me know that I shall never walk alone..again.

so as i was saying..

People who are crazy enough to study biology and the human brain have found out that we have a distinct portion in our brain dedicated solely for responses to rewards. Coined as the "reward center", this portion controls the flow of the mother of all "feel good hormone" called dopamine. Evolution forced our species to be as reproductive, as voracious, as fit (or lack of thereof) as possible so that it could survive and basically not go extinct. So every time we eat or have sex or even exercise (yes, it's true), the feel good hormones are released pleasuring our body and senses alike. So the more we have of it, the more dopamine is released and body looks further more ways to feel the way it did.

A biological vicious circle, in other words.

Which brings us to the idea of watching porn. The internet era has completely blown out the way people consume porn and I think it's only going to get worse with internet of things, also popularly known as the IoT lol, spicing things up a bit in the near future. So instead of traditionally looking for physical contact, people are going to be indulged in more virtual sex, in effect, releasing the very same hormone dopamine as it would have in having real sex. Studies have now pointed out that "addicts" who often indulge in watching porn have their nerve receptors in their brain numbed out, often leading them to be unsatisfied when they do finally have a physical relationship. Sad, but that's the reality.

So what does the brain do? look for further more ways to release the dopamine leading addicts to search for more porn and the cycle continues.

You may now ask what all of this has to do with South Koreans watching cute girls devouring an incredulous amount of food in one sitting. If you don't see the connection that is.

The society here in Korea looks very normal, spontaneous and incredibly fun on the outside but if you take time to dig a little deeper, you can see the stress scars appear out of the blue. Life is difficult even for the elite, imagine being average in this country. It's just a ridiculously workaholic island nation with an incredibly stressed out workforce.

So what do they do release der dopamine? Well, for one the sex industry here has taken care of more extravagant needs but for normal citizens here, its all about eating. Of all the time they stress out over usual business, they look notoriously relaxed, calm and all smiles over good food. And soju of course. It is perhaps, the de facto stress releasing exercise of all time; maybe it's the same all over the world but it's definitely more pronounced and tangible here.

Now combine south korea's use of internet and food to de-stress and you can see why binge eating, much like this talk on npr a few days ago, makes more sense than ever. Much like watching the act of having sex, the act watching someone else eat pleasures the senses the same way people consume food. And for the large workforce who hardly get to go home but have their internet turned on 24/7, this is more than they could have possibly asked for.

Time for some binge eating myself. without webcams that is.


  1. Haha, nice post. Just one correction, though: Korea's a peninsula, not an island!!! :)

    1. Well, if you go north, its north korea so it is basically an island!


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