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The rise of ‘honbab’ culture

Emergence and Characteristics of Honbap Culture

The increasing popularity of Mukbang have seen millions tuning in to live streaming videos to watch people eat – a lot!

The question is, then, why? Many people believe that Mukbang is a symptom of growing loneliness in the individualized society, as it brings someone comfort to watch someone else prepare a meal and eat it – especially if they feel lonely to eat alone.

Beside of popularity of Mukbang, what we need to pay attention is that, in South Korea, eating a meal together lies at heart of traditional food culture. The prototypical Korean meal involves a family gathered around a common table to share numerous communal dishes. However, a new culture of ‘honbap’, eating alone, is becoming increasingly common as the number of single-person households grows. 

©Tvn, Drinking Solo(2016)

Honbap is a portmanteau of the Korean words for “hon[ ja]” (혼자; meaning alone) and “bab” (밥; rice). Here, rice is used in Korean to refer to food in general. One of the latest phenomena in Korean society is that ordinary people prefer eating along to eating together with colleagues or family members, for different reasons.

With the increase of people living alone throughout big cities, the traditional culture of sharing food with family members has disappeared, and the “honbab culture” has begun to develop over the last decade.


The increasing popularity of convenient/fast food such as a lunch boxes that can be bought at a 24-hour convenience store and the night-time food delivery service where ordering and payment are performed through a mobile phone application, have supported the development of this culture.


● Lee C. (2016) ‘Why more Koreans are eating alone’, Korea Herald, 24 May [online]. Available at: http://www.koreaherald. com/view.php?ud=20160529000252

● Ibid.

● Kim, J. H., Yu, J., Sya, K., & Son, S. H. (2021). K-Culture Glossary: 100 Terms to Get You Started with Korean Popular Culture. Jikim Publishing Limited.

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