K-BBQ's roots, at least the basics and the dining culture are just a farmer's (very special occasion) dinner table. The basic elements are a protein, maybe some fresh greens, some pickled kimchis and a side or two, and some fermented soy-based sauces like dwenjang (the grainy Korean cousin to miso) and ssamjang (gochujang mixed with doenjang - ssamjang is what you get on a K-BBQ table everywhere but is mistakenly called gochujang by many)... obviously if an animal was slaughtered, the amount of fresh whole meat you could throw on a grill would be a luxury. Koreans in the days of yore would hang up a pig by the legs and stab the belly, collect all the blood, clean out the insides, which all get eaten, and then the meat would be probably sold to the highest bidder, so the idea of sitting around eating nice thick slabs of belly like we do nowadays is luxuriant, by old Korean standards, and for very few. The very high class back a hundred years ago or more would've been old dudes in screened-in rooms sitting around with young naked chicks grilling the best meat for them on tiny little charcoal grills. The low class, which was and is still about 99%, would be eating the snout. There are times when you don't want to cook your own food, that is true even for Korean people. Much of their food is communal and cooked at the table, but not all. The cooking at the table thing, that's just one facet I guess. Why is K-BBQ so popular and mediocre everywhere? You can put together a K-BBQ restaurant anywhere, the food is made up with about 20%-30% special Korean stuff you need to buy at a special grocer, and the rest you can buy at any supermarket in America - onions, green onions, potatoes, carrots, etc. The meat you can order frozen, you can butcher your own if you're a motivated K-BBQ restaurateur; it's not exactly like sushi where everything in the fly-over states is thawed out blocks of fish from Sysco or you pay thousands of dollars for it. K-BBQ is just mediocre stuff sold for mediocre prices at mediocre expectations. Anyway, the real thing is that basically anything like K-BBQ, hotpot - it's not about the food as much as the drink. It's supposed to be a piss up. The food is not expensive because you aren't there for the food, you're supposed to drink about 2 liters of soju per person or 3-4 liters of beer and the places will make their easy margin on that. That'd be like $100 in America, so I guess they don't go as hard normally, but I'm sure many do. Eat a piece of pork belly dipped in salt and gomashio, drop a shot of soju to wipe you down, repeat.