American emoji ain’t got shit on Korean emoji.
Let that sink in. Not everyone in the world is a devout follower of Unicode’s massive array of oddly specific emoticons. The only emoticons that I use from that list are the eggplant and the pile of shit. I think you can make accurate assumptions about my personality and lifestyle based off of that fact alone. It seems that they don’t really use those at all. Why would they? They already have something that is a trillion times better: kakao friends
Kakao friends were the brainchild of Kakao the Korean equivalent to google. Kakao has its hands in many pots. There is kakao navigation, kakao wallet, they even developed Black Desert Online. Their most used app is called Kakao talk, which is equivalent to facebook messenger, lineplay, or whatsapp. What none of these apps have (save for lineplay) is a dedicated group of delightfully expressive and relatable characters called the kakao friends.
I am obsessed with the kakao friends. Each of them has a surprisingly detailed backstory assigned to them. The tiny lizard gave sentience to a radish and a peach. They now go by Muzi, who wears a bunny hat to feel good about himself, and Apeach, who is my queer lord and savior. Frodo is a dog who is ashamed of how rich he is, JG is a bodyguard who moonlights as a DJ, Nao is a sassy girl cat, and Tube is ashamed of how small his feet are so he wears big shoes to compensate. All of these characters have their own sets of emoji that run the gamut of different expressions, situations, and moods. They’re perfect.
What’s even more wonderful is the Kakao stores. These are typically massive. The biggest one that I encountered was in Hongdae. It is three stories tall and features just about every household item or accessory you could imagine. They have toilet seat covers, jewelry, phone-cases, tooth brushes, caps for your tooth brushes, thermos, waste-bins, pajamas, seat-belt cushions (???,) and kitchen utensils. All of these things are very expensive.
Not to be outdone there is also a Lineplay stores dotted around Korea. There is a massive three story tall one in Itaewon. I have less of an emotional connection to the Lineplay animals. Putting aside Leonard, the frog with irresistibly fat cheeks, the animals don’t have the same charisma or personality that the Kakao friends have. However, that store does have more statues and rooms to take photos in.
I would love to have stores in America that were all about these characters. We do have stores devoted to Disney, but we don’t have any specifically for emoji. Perhaps that’s a blessing considering how awful The Emoji Movie was rated. But whenever my head hits the pillow at night, I dream of a large Apeach statue on American soil.