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Kakao marks 10th anniversary of emoticon biz

‘We discover new creators and give them a bigger stage to share their works. That, in turn, would expand the emoticon business to the next level.’

Kakao emoticons have become a lucrative market worth 700 billion won ($586 million) since their launch in 2011. (Kakao)
Kakao emoticons have become a lucrative market worth 700 billion won ($586 million) since their launch in 2011. (Kakao)

KakaoTalk, South Korea’s top mobile messenger, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its emoticon service, highlighting the jobs it has created for freelancers.

KakaoTalk emoticons that can be purchased and used in the mobile messenger have raised 700 billion won ($586 million) in sales revenue since their launch in 2011, according to the company.

More than 300,000 emoticon sets have been sold, and 220 billion emoticons have been sent among users.

Five emoticon sets have each collected more than 10 billion won in sales revenue in the 10 years. Forty-three and 92 emoticon sets have raised more than 10 billion won and 5 billion won, respectively, and sales revenue of 1,392 sets exceeded 100 million won during the cited period.

According to Kakao, there are 10,000 emoticon creators selling character illustrations on the platform.

Of emoticon creators, 49.9 percent were in their 20s and 34.5 percent were in their 30s. Forty-something creators accounted for 12.4 percent.

The youngest creator was 12 years old, while the oldest is Jang Eun-ju, 81, according to a KakaoTalk official. Jang’s emoticons feature a cartoon image of a girl with short remarks such as “Thank you,” “I’m doing well, Mom” and “Dad, you’re the best.”

“KakaoTalk emoticons have created the new job title, ‘emoticon creators.’ We discover new creators and give them a bigger stage to share their works. That, in turn, would expand the emoticon business to the next level,” the official said.

During an interview with KakaoTalk, creators shared their individual success stories in the emoticon business.

Chung Oh-mok, creator of the “Mom’s the best” emoticon, said before becoming a KakaoTalk emoticon creator, she always felt joy in giving character illustrations as presents to her friends.

“I wanted to give joy to more people. So I made emoticons that give heartwarming messages to family. While living my dream, I was able to pay for college and even set up my own studio with the profit,” Chung said.

A creator who goes by the name “Silver Bell” said his dream was to become a 3D animator working for Disney.

“Receiving huge support from millennials and Generation Z with ‘Pposhiraegi Jageunkong,’ emoticons, I am creating my own world in the Kakao emoticons instead of Disney,” he said.

Pposhiraegi Jageunkong features boy and girl character illustrations that are mostly used by couples.

Another creator, Apoi, was bold enough to quit his job and enter KakaoTalk’s emoticon business. Since 2011, he has made more than 100 emoticon sets around 15 characters of his own.

With the Emoticon Plus subscription service for KakaoTalk, users can enjoy unlimited access to emoticons made by all creators, the company said. If a user types “hello,” for example, the messenger service pops up with different emoticon options without the need to purchase them separately.

As for its social contributions, KakaoTalk presents “Give-ticon,” a donation channel where a portion of money used in the purchase of emoticon sets goes to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, more than 1.7 million users have participated in the donation drive, according to KakaoTalk.

Meanwhile, Kakao Corp., operator of KakaoTalk, recently announced revenue from its platform business led by KakaoTalk, Kakao Pay and other services surged by 35 percent on-year to 778.7 billion won. Specifically, KakaoTalk raised its revenue by 38 percent, the company said.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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