Saturday, January 18, 2020
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(CNN) — In increasingly virtual South Korea, the latest bizarre fad is watching someone eat online.

Called ‘muk-bang’ in Korean, which translates to ‘eating rooms,’ online channels live-stream people eating enormous servings of food while chatting away to those who are watching.

The queen of this particular phenomenon is the Diva, a waifish, pretty 33-year-old woman apparently blessed with the stomach capacity of several elephants and the metabolism of a hummingbird.

Every evening around 8 p.m, several thousand viewers tune in to watch The Diva — real name Park Seo-Yeon — begin inhaling enough food for several college linebackers.

She easily polishes off four large pizzas or three kilograms (6 lb) of beef in one sitting, albeit over the span of several hours.

After she eats, she spends another two or three hours just talking to her fans, who communicate with her via a chat room which accompanies her live-stream channel.

For Park, online eating is not just a niche hobby but a significant source of income — she makes up to ₩10 million ($9,300) a month from her broadcasts alone.

Her costs are also high, however. She says she spends an average of $3,000 per month purchasing food for her show, which she broadcasts for about four to six hours per night.

Confessions of a Diva

Thanks to the live chat room that accompanies her channel, feedback is instantaneous and the show interactive.

Comments flood in and she reads from them in real time.

“My fans tell me that they really love watching me eat because I do so with so much gusto and make everything look so delicious,” says Park.

“A lot of my viewers are on diets and they say they live vicariously through me, or they are hospital patients who only have access to hospital food so they also watch my broadcasts to see me eat.”

While it would seem that her metabolism would make her public enemy number one, some of the Diva’s biggest fans are women, and indeed her channel is more popular with women than with men, with a 60-40 ratio.

“One of the best comments I ever received from a viewer who said that she had gotten over her anorexia by watching me eat,” says Park. “That really meant a lot to me.”
She cooks about a third of the food that she eats, and the rest she has delivered. Offers of sponsorship have come in thick and fast, but she says she tests out sponsored food first and only features what she truly likes and wants to share.
Her fans show their appreciation by sending her money, in the form of virtual tokens that can be cashed in.
Afreeca TV, the publicly-listed social networking site that hosts her channel, allows users to buy and send virtual “star balloons” which can be monetized after the site takes a 30-40% commission.
Any payment by viewers is purely voluntary, as all channels can be viewed for free.
The service is currently limited to South Korea, although the company has plans to expand it to other countries.

“One of the best comments I ever received from a viewer who said that she had gotten over her anorexia by watching me eat,” says Park. “That really meant a lot to me.”
She cooks about a third of the food that she eats, and the rest she has delivered. Offers of sponsorship have come in thick and fast, but she says she tests out sponsored food first and only features what she truly likes and wants to share.
Her fans show their appreciation by sending her money, in the form of virtual tokens that can be cashed in.
Afreeca TV, the publicly-listed social networking site that hosts her channel, allows users to buy and send virtual “star balloons” which can be monetized after the site takes a 30-40% commission.
Any payment by viewers is purely voluntary, as all channels can be viewed for free.
The service is currently limited to South Korea, although the company has plans to expand it to other countries.

Cultural background

The Diva’s success and the Korean eating room trend can be attributed to a number of specific 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,” says Afreeca TV public relations coordinator Serim An.

While watching food porn on a diet may sound like masochistic torture, apparently lonely, hungry Koreans prefer to eat vicariously.

Another thing, Koreans hate eating alone.

“For Koreans, eating is an extremely social, communal activity, which is why even the Korean word ‘family’ means ‘those who eat together,'” says Professor Sung-hee Park of Ewha University’s Division of Media Studies.

She believes its the interactive aspect of eating rooms that’s so appealing to these lonely hearts.

Loneliness was also the catalyst for the Diva.

“So many of my friends were getting married and I was living alone and lonely and bored,” she says.

“When I first started my channel two years ago, I was showing a variety of content, from dance to outdoor activities, but it was my love of eating that really began drawing a response from fans,” says Park.

The setting

And then there’s the platform to make the phenomenon possible in the first place.

It’s difficult to imagine the unique live-streaming online platform of Afreeca TV working as well on a daily basis anywhere other than South Korea’s extremely wired culture.

With 78.5% of the entire population on smartphones and 7 million people riding the Seoul subway network every day, Afreeca TV is becoming particularly popular with Korean commuters, given that the Seoul subway has cellphone reception and Wi-Fi, and South Korean smartphones have TV streaming capabilities.

“Our mobile users surpassed our PC users a while ago, and most of our viewers watch our content while they are on the move,” says An.

The majority of Afreeca TV’s content is actually online gaming, where individual broadcasters called ‘BJs’ (short for Broadcast Jockeys), stream their gaming live for others to learn from or comment on. Anyone can live-stream from any device as long as they log in.

“Eating rooms” began popping up around 2009, says An, when users began to imitate celebrities’ food shows by commenting as they were eating while broadcasting.

Now, of the platform’s 5,000 channels that are streaming at any given point in time, 5% of those are eating rooms. Afreeca TV has a daily average viewership of 3 million.

Spinning off

The Diva says her success was a huge surprise, but there are still many who don’t understand the concept and are liberal with their criticism.

“I get some really awful commenters who make me reexamine ‘why am I doing this again?’ but at the end of the day the positive feedback overwhelmingly outweighs the bad, so I am happy to continue.”

While Park maintained her real estate consulting day job over the past two years, she quit last week to focus more on her eating room and potential spinoff businesses, including a clothing company.

When asked if she has any time for a private life, considering she broadcasts more than six hours a day every day including weekends, the answer is that she doesn’t need one.

“This is a lot more fun,” she says.

Melbourne, Australia (CNN) — Li Na outperformed Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, but can China’s biggest sporting star now do the almost unthinkable and surpass the Russian as the world’s richest female athlete?

Maybe — and that’s according to the man who represents both players.

“She could,” Max Eisenbud, the duo’s agent, told CNN after Li won her second grand slam title. “It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes up. A lot depends on how she plays and how Maria plays. But they’re both in the same stratosphere, for sure.”

Sharapova has been No. 1 in the earnings department as named by Forbes magazine every year since 2005, the season after she opened her grand slam account as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon.

Li’s triumph in Melbourne on Saturday, though, will increase her chances of landing more sponsors in her homeland, the world’s most populous country and its largest second economy. CNN estimated China’s economy to be worth $10 trillion in 2014.

Li finished at No. 3 in the 2013 Forbes list, one spot behind the dominant force in women’s tennis, Serena Williams. She was No. 2 the year before.

“Maybe we can do another one or two deals,” said Eisenbud. “But we can’t add five more deals for her.”

Li was certainly a popular women’s champion at the season’s first major, being the crowd favorite throughout the fortnight.

Her on-court interviews have always evoked laughter and the soon-to-be 32-year-old especially sparkled during Saturday’s trophy presentation after downing Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova.

There she thanked Eisenbud for making her “rich” and had more words for her husband Jiang Shan. “You are so lucky to find me!” she quipped. As of Monday, the speech had been viewed on YouTube nearly one million times.

Her light-hearted personality, along with the tennis success, makes for a desirable combination for sponsors, according to Michael Stirling, founder of Britain-based Global Sponsors.

“Sponsors will find her progress in winning the Australian Open, together with her public persona of being fun and honest in her interviews, refreshing and engaging,” he told CNN. “Winning the Australian Open will make many more people globally aware of who she is as a player and this will attract brands.”

But overtaking the longer established Sharapova — upset by Cibulkova in the quarterfinals in Melbourne — might prove difficult.

“The Sharapova brand has been in existence for many years and the essence of it was caught when she won Wimbledon,” Stirling said. “She has built her brand over many years, and provided Sharapova continues to be a top-10 player her brand value remains enduring and more relevant as a global brand.

“Whereas, Li’s brand is a new regional phenomena, which carries significant value in the emerging markets of the Far East and will ripple into other regions of the globe.”

Along with a host of established backers, Sharapova launched her own candy line, “Sugarpova,” two years ago and pulled in $29 million in endorsements and prize money last year, Forbes said, as the Russian once again held top position.

After Li became the first Asian player to win a grand slam singles crown at the 2011 French Open, her value soared. Companies including Samsung, Nike and Mercedes Benz helped Li achieve $18.2 million in last year’s list, Forbes said.

Li counts a following of roughly 22 million on Chinese social media and her popularity is set to increase, according to Renjie Liu, a journalist with Chinese website SINA.

“The people who have the most social media followers in China are movie stars,” he told CNN. “They have something like 80 million. It’s a big difference. But Li Na is right behind them. She’s the top of the sports industry.

“She was quite popular already but after the win it’s getting more and more. People realize she’s not only a tennis player. She’s kind of a national hero. She also represents Chinese women in a very good way so I believe her image is getting bigger not only in China but in front of the world.”

And to think Li almost didn’t play at the Australian Open.

She considered retiring — for a second time — after an early exit at the French Open last May.

Criticism from the Chinese media in the wake of that second-round defeat to American Bethanie Mattek-Sands left her reeling.

“They gave me a very tough time when I played the French Open and it continued to Wimbledon,” Li told reporters.

Li decided to continue and, with famed coach Carlos Rodriguez by her side — he formerly guided seven-time grand slam winner Justine Henin — strung together a solid second half of 2013.

She reached the quarterfinals or better at every tournament after Roland Garros, highlighted by an appearance in the final of the year-end championships in Turkey.

Li was the first to admit she got somewhat lucky in Melbourne, only fending off a match point in the third round when Lucie Safarova missed a makeable backhand down the line.

The unexpected exits of Williams and two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka meant Li didn’t have to face anyone in the top 20.

But she was unfortunate in last year’s final against Azarenka, falling twice, injuring her ankle and head. The previous year she was beaten by Kim Clijsters, taking the former world No. 1 to three sets in her maiden grand slam final.

More than dollars and cents, Eisenbud said this title was about Li proving she wasn’t a one-slam wonder.

“I don’t think this win is about the money,” he said. “I think it’s a big statement. A lot of girls have won a grand slam but winning that second one puts you in a different category.

“She’s a wealthy girl and will get more deals and that will come, but this win is more about legacy.

“One of the things we’re really looking to do is to solidify her desire to have a tennis academy in China. So that’ll be a really big focus, having some sort of partnership with a property company there.”

The American owner gave a speech to the Boston Chamber of Commerce, outlining why he chose to purchase the club in 2010

Liverpool owner John Henry has explained why he bought the club in 2010, praising the city for it’s “toughness, intelligence and creativity” and hailing Luis Suarez as “the most exciting player in the world.”

In a speech to the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the 64-year-old drew parallels between Liverpool and Boston, where Henry owns the Red Sox baseball team, who won last year’s World Series.

When Henry bought the Anfield side in 2010 the club were on the brink of bankruptcy under American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

He said: “The larger part of the story that struck us when we were considering buying Liverpool out of a bankruptcy situation created by Americans was the similarities of the two cities, the two teams, the two histories, the two stadia.”

“Both cities will excoriate me for comparing them, but like it or not they are kindred spirits.”

John Henry on the similarities between Liverpool and Boston:

“Liverpool has a large Irish Catholic population, it’s a seaport on a famous river, both cities are about 45 square miles in size, both have around 600,000 people, both are college towns.

“Boston had the first public library, Liverpool had the first lending library. Both cities have pioneered medical advancements during the decades and both have the largest economic powers in the world exactly 213 miles to the south by car.”

Liverpool and the Red Sox have the best rivalries in their sport:

“When we play our rival Manchester United the audience on television is about a billion people. That’s about nine times the size of the audience for the Super Bowl. This is very similar to the relationship between the Red Sox and the Yankees.”

Both teams have the most exciting player in the world:

“Liverpool have a David Ortiz. His name is Luis Suarez. He leads the league in goals and he’s the most exciting player in the world today.”

Both clubs have iconic stadiums:

“They play in the most historical cathedrals of sport. Anfield has 7,000 more seats than Fenway [the Red Sox’s stadium] but actually you might say its a bit cosier than Fenway.”

But John Henry’s spending sprees haven’t always paid off:

“When the Red Sox spent $300million on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Liverpool fans were irate. It actually should have been Boston fans.

“When Liverpool spent $200m on soccers players [Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and others] the same year, not including their salaries, Red Sox fans were irate. But it should have been Liverpool fans.”

Smoker numbers edge close to one billion

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Although smoking is becoming less popular in many parts of the world, the total number of smokers is growing, global figures reveal.

In 2012, 967 million people smoked every day compared with 721 million in 1980, data from 187 countries shows.

The rise is linked to population growth, researchers told JAMA.

With the Earth’s population having more than doubled in the last 50 years to seven billion, there are simply more people to take up the habit.

Several large countries, including Bangladesh, China and Russia, have seen increasing numbers of inhabitants take up smoking in recent years, the figures show.

Indeed, some of the highest smoking rates are now seen in the developing world, according to the JAMA report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in the US.

But global smoking prevalence – the proportion of the world’s population that smokes – has gone down.

Around three in 10 men (31%) and one in 20 women (6%) now smoke daily compared with four in 10 men (41%) and one in 10 women (10%) in 1980.

In terms of countries with the highest prevalence of tobacco use, East Timor tops the list with 61% of its population smoking every day.

The twin Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda are bottom at 5%.

Certain countries, including Canada, Iceland, Norway and Mexico, have been more successful than most at getting inhabitants to either quit or never take up smoking.

In terms of ill health, the greatest toll is likely to be in countries with both a high prevalence of smoking and a high consumption of cigarettes, say the researchers – namely Greece, Ireland, Italy and Japan as well as China, Kuwait, the Philippines, Russia, Switzerland and Uruguay.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Murray, who is director of the IHME, said: “Despite the tremendous progress made on tobacco control, much more remains to be done.”

The World Health Organization says millions of additional lives could be saved with continued implementation of policies such as increased cigarette taxes and smoke-free air laws.

Amanda Sandford of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “As the overall number of smokers worldwide is still rising, this study shows how important it is for all countries to implement a range of tobacco control measures to curb the terrible toll of tobacco-related illness and death.

“Low and middle-income countries in particular face an enormous challenge to fend off the powerful tobacco industry and stop smoking rates escalating.”

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: “We support campaigns that educate people about the health risks of smoking.

“However, many tobacco control policies involve excessive restrictions on where people can smoke and the deliberate stigmatisation of millions of consumers worldwide.”

He added: “Tobacco is a legal product and consumers should be treated with respect, not vilified or forced to quit through extreme and often illiberal regulation.”

Globally, an estimated 6.25 trillion cigarettes were smoked by people during the year 2012 compared with 4.96 trillion in 1980.

Countries with the highest and lowest smoking prevalence for men in 2012


  • East Timor
  • Indonesia
  • Kiribati
  • Armenia
  • Papua New Guinea


  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Nigeria
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana

Source: IHME study published in JAMA