Who are the Kakao Friends?

kakaoIs it just me or are emoji and animated sticker characters taking over the world? The Kakao Friends were once unassuming characters that lived in the Kakao Talk mobile messaging app. They were content simply to be seen in texts.

Now they have burst out of the digital world and are taking over the real world – or at least the shops in Seoul. First they had their own Kakao Friends shops where you can buy everything from hand cream to cuddly toys. There’s jewellery, Christmas cards, kids clothes, hairbands, keyrings, smartphone cases, even thermos flasks with your favourite character. The shops are packed with customers too. Here’s some hand cream and other stuff in the shop:

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Not happy with just their own shop, the Kakao friends have collaborations with LOTS of other companies in Korea, so these days I can see the kakao characters in Korean cosmetics shops like the Face Shop, in fashion stores like Beanpole, and even in the local supermarket where I saw them on car air fresheners! And they are all over the bookshops – how about a Kakao Friends colouring book, or origami-like kit to make 3D paper characters, or something from the digital department – earphones or a USB cable perhaps? Like these …

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or a phone case perhaps:

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I must admit that I’ve been using the Kakao Friends characters for years – ever since I started using KakaoTalk. But until the other day when I started writing this post, I still didn’t know all the characters’ names and personality descriptions. I was just picking emojis willy-nilly to express myself. That’s the kind of reckless gal I am. So I had to go to the kakao homepage (Korean) to check who is who!

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pic: kakao friends

In this line-up of the usual suspects, the characters are (1) Frodo the wealthy urban dog who is dating (2) Neo the sexy urban cat. (3.4) Muzi and Con are always together – the yellow radish with a penchant for bunny rabbit outfits is always with his creator the little green scientist called Con. (5) Apeach is a cheeky peach – you have to see him from behind, have a look at the pic below. Yes, he’s the one with a head like a  bum (!) (6) Ryan, the dependable lion is the newest Kakao friends character, then there’s (7) Tube, the hot-tempered duck, and finally (8) Jay-G, the cool, hip-hop loving free-spirit. Here’s some more detailed information about the kakao characters in English.

Frodo and Neo are dating and so they have lots of emojis for ‘relationship issues’ like arguing- Me and Mr Kim use these a lot! Here’s Neo on some Kakao friends merchandise from the kakao friends store.

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I only use the free Kakao Friends characters because I’m stingy. But there are LOADS of animated stickers you can buy on Kakao Pay. Of course shopping is not limited to online either. The other day I walked into the Bandi and Lundi bookstore, one of the big bookstore chains here, and what did I see? No, not books – there are fewer and fewer actual books in bookshops these days. Gifts are taking over. And characters from animated stickers are all over the gifts.

So this month the bookshop is selling an  assortment of Chewyhams – hamster animated sticker characters – they are available on KakaoTalk too but not for free. In the shop they had the characters on cushions (18,000 won each…)  on fluffy pyjamas, and on calendars. Or you can just buy the small plastic hamster figures. Here’s the chewyhams Facebook page.

hams friends

Thanks to technology we can all live very minimalistic lives – email, photos, music, books etc. It’s all digitised.

But perhaps people will always want to go to actual shops and buy stuff. I’m old and old-fashioned so in my adjuma home I still have bookshelves full of paper books and stacks of CDs cluttering up the place. I even have boxes of photo albums, and letters that I got from friends and family back in the days when people actually wrote letters.

What will people from now on have in their boxes in the attic collecting dust? Perhaps old phone cases and mouse pads, all covered in nostalgic emoji character prints?

I popped into the Kakao Friends store in Gangnam just for a look around, but kept  inadvertently stepping in the way of young couples taking selfies. So I made a swift exit. (animated sticker of confused adjuma)

 

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