Hwasa, a member of the four-member K-pop girl group MAMAMOO, has the kind of feminine appeal that every woman her age would die for.
She is girlish and has long lush locks. And she is also chic, curvy and tall.
However, the South Korean singer and rapper’s taste in food defies her girlish image.
Hwasa, 23, has confessed that her favourite food is gopchang, or beef intestines – a food popular with middle-aged men
In MBC's reality show I Live Alone, which aired in June, she revealed her unusual culinary favourites and showed how she enjoyed her favourite food.
A post shared by MAMAMOO (@mamamoo_official) on Jul 28, 2018 at 8:52pm PDT
“I like organ meats, rather than beef,” she said. “I like beef heart, liver and intestines. These are my favourite. I like tripe, too.”
In the show, she “devoured” beef intestines served at her favourite restaurant in Seoul.
The footage of her enjoying the dish went viral, which led to her earning the nickname “Goddess of Gopchang”.
Beef intestines have also become a big hit since the show.
Restaurants serving organ meats saw an instant, rare boom, which quickly led to a shortages in beef intestines.
It led to long queues of people in front of eateries serving beef intestines.
A post shared by MAMAMOO (@mamamoo_official) on Jul 3, 2018 at 8:00am PDT
Hwasa’s favourite restaurant benefited a lot from her reality television endorsement.
Before the show was shown, the eatery was always open all year round without any days closed.
However, the sudden shortage of beef intestines forced it to close on Sunday.
The eatery also had “unintended” shorter working hours because all of its dishes were sold out before 10pm, so it was able to close earlier than usual.
In July, Hwasa received a certificate of appreciation from the Association of Cattle Organ Meats for her role in encouraging the consumption of beef intestines.
The association also gave the K-pop star a free coupon worth 1 million won (US$950) to help her enjoy her favourite food as much as she wants.
Celebrity endorsement is one of the most widely used marketing strategies to promote sales of certain products.
There are many reality television shows featuring food, but only a few of them successfully trigger a boom in the given products.
Many are wondering the secrets of how Hwasa sparked such a huge craze in beef intestines.
Those who are familiar with reality shows say the way she was filmed enjoying organ meats encouraged many viewers to try the dish themselves.
A post shared by Hwasa (@_ahnhyejin) on Jul 16, 2018 at 2:58pm PDT
Some people say the combination of Hwasa and gopchang together seems to have played a part in creating such interest.
Although gopchang is popular in Korea, it is commonly regarded as a fattening food consumed mostly by middle-aged men – and is typically eaten together by groups of people at night.
However, it only took one scene in the programme showing Hwasa eating gopchang to turn the traditional image of the dish on its head.
It is quite unusual for people to eat alone in South Korea, yet I Live Alone showed the chic young K-pop idol eating gopchang – all by herself in the middle of the day: it helped viewers to look at the food differently.
University student Lee Jeong-in, a fan of MAMAMOO, said the programme had also led to look at Hwasa in a new light.
She previously considered the singer was a typical celebrity who lived a glitzy, glamorous life. But now she saw that she was someone who was down to earth – like “the girl next door” – who enjoyed eating simple food just like anyone else, she said.
“Fans adore her, not so much because of her looks, but because of her work,” Lee said.
“They are encouraged to work hard to be like her.”
Hwasa showed just how influential her celebrity can be when she came returned to the show in July.
This time, she promoted another of her favourite dishes – seaweed chips, or gimbugak.
As she was filmed eating it, she said: “This is really yummy. You don’t need any other dish.”
After the programme aired, gimbugak became the most searched word on South Korea’s largest internet portal NAVER.
Restaurant owners that serve the dish also witnessed Hwasa’s growing influence.
The CEO of the seaweed chips producer, Bugakmaeul, said since the programme had been shown, sales had increased by as much as five or six times, compared with last month.
“It’s amazing to see the immediate increase in popularity of the dish after the show,” he told The Korea Times.
“Before the show, seaweed chips were popular among people in their 30s and 40s. But after the show, young people began consuming it a lot.
“I’d like to thank Hwasa for promoting [gimbugak] and her role in getting younger people to take an interest in the dish.”
This article was originally written by Ko Dae-ho for The Korea Times.