The first thing I did when I moved to Korea, after setting aside my suitcases, was download KakaoTalk. There are two different chats for all the teachers at school–one for general information, and one for pictures of the kindergarten students that later get sent home to parents. I have a handful of one-on-one chats and some group chats where I can look forward to Meme day every Wednesday.
To say that KakaoTalk is a messaging app used by Koreans of every age is an understatement. I use KakaoBus to time leaving my house in the morning, and should I be running late, KakaoT(axi) will get me to where I need to go. There’s also KakaoMetro and KakaoMap, even KakaoPay and KakaoBank. Moving a conversation off of a dating app to KakaoTalk is seen as A Thing here. Kakao is more than just a simple internet company–it’s a brand. And along with that comes brand imaging, and Kakao does not disappoint.
Introducing: KakaoFriends, which started out as KakaoTalk emoticons and took on a life all their own.
My favorite Kakao character is Jordy, a “dinosaur that has been kept secret since its existence.” Ryan, a mane-less lion and Apeach, a… peach, are two of the more popular characters, but I’d like to also highlight Muzi, who is actually a piece of pickled daikon radish in a… rabbit costume. Listen, just go with it. They’re cute.
There are a few KakaoFriends stores, but my friend and I went to the flagship store in Gangnam. (Unfortunately, we were there too early to visit the café on the third floor.)