People are looking into their smartphones. They smack their lips blissfully while others knit their brows in hunger. Next to them, some are depressed after looking at their phones and their bodies in turn, while others resolvedly record their daily calorie intake—they are all reading food webtoon. Among chicken-lovers, there is a joke that there is Chicken between Birth and Death. According to the same principle, it would be right to say that there is an Eating between Diet and Food. Nowadays, however, people both eat food and go on a diet through reading the food webtoon.
While Meok-Bang, an abbreviation for Meokneun Bangsong, fever continues these days, newcomer Cook-Bang is in full swing. Such food fever in broadcast programs, has spread to webtoon in recent days, and is known as food webtoon. There are two types of food webtoon and there is a webtoon portraying food deliciously and stimulating the appetite to the skies, and another kind of webtoon appealing to people to stop eating and go on a diet. The former is called Meokneun Webtoon, and the latter Diet Webtoon. Webtoon writers deliver these kinds of messages with their own characteristic stories. Then what does it look like? And why do people read food webtoon?
The most impressive aspect of Meokneun Webtoon is that the foods are portrayed really appetizingly, almost like actual food. It illustrates not only the dishes that have been just completed, but also the hand that picks them up as if ready, willing, and able to eat them. Thus, even though it is just a drawing, people feel like they are watching a broadcasting program where real foods are shown, and some of them might even feel hungry and go out to eat them following suit. However, if a Meokneun Webtoon only depicts delicious foods and provides fragmentary reviews ascommonly existing Meokneun programs, it would not gather this public interest.
▲ The foods depicted deliciously in Omurice-Jam-Jam. Provided by i.imgur.com.
Meokneun Webtoon has its own story in it since it is a kind of work written and drawn by the writer. In those works, a writer introduces local and seasonal delicacies, or sometimes they reveal their own secret recipes for the readers. Omurice-Jam-Jam, which represents top rank among Naver Meokneun Webtoons, has become an issue with the writer’s own interesting recipes. In the webtoon, he depicted eating steamed sweet potato with mayonnaise spreading on it, whereas generally people eat it with Kimchi. In addition, he has devised a formula for how to cook delicious ramen noodles—ramen, two eggs, sliced bar rice cake, spam, and scallion. What is more, his works are full of hidden stories of the foods which most people would not have known before. That is why some readers call the author a “Food Dictionary.”
On the other side of Meokneun Webtoon, there is a webtoon which focuses on communication with readers and it becomes a story by itself. Haru-Dalcom-Haru-Ssabssaruem, one of the well-known Olleh Market webtoon, shares special memories of food with its readers. Eun-You, the author of this webtoon, receives anecdotes from the readers through her e-mail, and writes and draws the webtoon based on them. Thus, it is fun to see the title of each story, which gives a hint about what happened with which food, such as “Ripe persimmon for apology,” “Commuting with Fried Tofu Rice Balls,” and “Vietnamese Spring Rolls with chatter.”
“I still remember when I received the story that one reader ate pork belly with her mother who had been in the hospital for a long time. And he told me it was his last time with his mother,” said Eun-You. When asked the meaning of communication for webtoon writers, she said that communication is like a double-edged sword; obviously the writers need communication with their readers, but sometimes it affronted her. Thus, she concluded, “Communicating with readers via my works is the most meaningful way to interact with them, and that is why I have decided to publish a webtoon in which the readers’ stories become the main part.”
▲ The parts of Haru-Dalcom-Haru-Ssabsaruem. Provided by story.kakao.com.
It seems obvious that many Meokneun Webtoons have enough fascinating factors for people to read. People can eat delicious food with their eyes and also have a chance to fall in their own and others’ reminisces related to food through webtoons. Meanwhile, when asked the reason why people read Meokneun Webtoon, Eun-You provided the answer from a different point of view. “People of our time highly regard ‘sympathy.’ I think perhaps they want to form a consensus, like ‘I want to eat too’ or ‘I also have eaten it before,’ through food in the webtoon,” she said.
On the contrary, there are people who bear hunger while reading food webtoon. This can be regarded as vicarious satisfaction. However, what they read is not sufficient to be regarded as Diet Webtoon. Diet Webtoon gives much more positive aid to dieters by becoming their partners. In most Diet Webtoons, there is not only useful knowledge about how to go on a diet, but also special devices for helping them to go on a diet more effectively. Above all, like previous Meokneun Webtoon, the author creates and delivers them with a well-done storyline.
Since Diet Webtoon takes the role of information delivery and its role is not insignificant, it needs to be easy and reliable at the same time. In addition, since it deals with diet, an issue which is close to people's daily lives, it should arouse sympathy from a wide range of people.
In Dieter, definitely one of the most popular Diet Webtoons, the characteristics of Diet Webtoon mentioned above are well-depicted. In this webtoon, Suji, the main character of the story is an ordinary woman who knows that she has to go on a diet, but fails every time, like many women in the real world. One day, she firmly resolves to start a diet and the readers begin observing her diet diary by reading the webtoon. Not long after, a devilish personal trainer for Suji appears and begins to completely change her eating habits and teach a variety of exercises.
▲ The picture of Suji, who, easily resolves and gives up to go on a diet. Provided by www.egloos.zum.com.
At this point, the readers would start going on a diet as well. They would start to record what they have eaten and the calories and plan to exercise. Indeed, in the webtoon, specific diet plans and the movements for losing weight of each body part are provided in detail. In addition, under the three slogans of “No Skipping Meals! “Never Yo-yo Diet!” “Health is Best!,” there are several precautions to consider for Suji, actually for real-life dieters as well. Suji-Nara, for example, is an imaginary world where the fat kingdom family lives. The members of the fat who live there explain yo-yo diet and slumps which can come during the diet in easy words. If a dieter goes through trouble when going on a diet by herself, the webtoon would provide great help.
Desire for sleep, desire for sex, and desire for food are the three fundamental human instincts that should be satisfied. Considering this fact, it is not surprising at all that food has broadened its influence over webtoon. Moreover, webtoon can be a great means to depict useful tips for daily life, crossing the borderline between imagination and reality. Therefore, food webtoon well reflects people’s desire for food and at the same time, desire for controlling it. As long as there are food and diet, there will be people who read food webtoon anywhere and at anytime.