JANGSEONG, South Korea — The stars of the latest online trend in South Korea stay out of sight most of the day. Viewers don't seem to mind waiting for hours while nothing happens. When the stray cats finally come to eat the food left out for them, people watching online sit enraptured by their feline charms.
The livestreamed "Cats Meok Bang" show is a twist on an online trend of young South Korean men and women tucking into feasts in real time, while viewers send messages and sometimes virtual cash. In a country where young adults increasingly live and dine alone, the shows have become so popular, some hosts have made small or big fortunes from the virtual cash sent from viewers.
While the stars of those programs seek a rapport with their fans, Cat TV has gained viewers despite its uneventfulness. Some avid fans say they quit watching soap operas, reading online news or playing mobile phone game to watch. One says instead of smoking every time he gets stressed at work, watching the cats restores his peace of mind. While cats have generally fascinated the Internet, a show devoted to watching them eat is unusual. But it has helped change negative images of stray cats in South Korea, which has traditionally seen them as thieves.