Ten years ago, who would have thought that the “character industry” will flourish globally as a business? In the 90s, children grew up with Disney characters and that’s how it was for a long time. There’s also “anime” that originated in Japan and some cute characters from shows that appeared on local televisions. Specifically, in South Korea, there’s Dooly, the little mischievous dinosaur. But the industry only took off in 2003, when the internet was identified as a new type of media. Online cartoons and webtoons became successful in catching the interest of the audiences. And eventually, it led to the birth of mobile app characters like LINE and Kakao Talk.
Back to the present time, the character industry has now grown into a multi-channel business that can be consumed through different ways: TV, online streaming, mobile apps, and especially merchandise. They can be incorporated into stationeries, toys, accessories, clothing, office and school supplies, and even home decors. To dive deeper into what’s the Korean character industry is offering, here is the list of character stores that you can visit online:
Backed by BTS or Bangtan Seonyeondan, the biggest KPOP boy group in the world, BT21 became one of the most loved character brands globally. BTS collaborated with LINE FRIENDS, which is under NAVER Corporation, to create their animated personas. The project is called FRIENDS CREATORS that pursue to fulfill the purpose of the keywords Global, Millennials, and Trending. That is why they created UNIVERSTAR21 which represents the personalities and backstories of BT21 characters.
The UNIVERSTAR21 starts with the super curious Prince TATA, from planet BT, who wants to explore the universe. He is accompanied by the space robot VAN, which represents BTS’ loyal supporters, ARMY. As they go through their journey, they came across Earth, where they got to meet BTS. Inspired by the biggest and most influential boy group, Prince TATA and VAN searched the planet Earth and found like-minded aspirants Koya, RJ, Shooky, Mang, Chimmy, and Cooky. And this is how the group BT21 was formed.
Launched in October 2017, BT21 stickers became available in LINE messenger and easily achieved 8 million downloads. With this success, they decided to release fan merchandise that includes apparel, office, toys, handbags, home and décor, accessories, travel, and electronics. Some of their featured products include 500 pieces Jigsaw puzzles and cute baby BT21 digital clocks.
Molang and PIU PIU were first drawn by South Korean illustrator Yoon Hye Ji in her school notebooks in 2010. A little later, she decided to turn them into cute emoticons online. That is just the start. Four years later, Hye Ji encountered a French animation studio called Millimages by chance that emerged into a cross-cultural collaboration. With this, they turned Molang and Piu Piu into a pair and created a match made in heaven. Eventually, the sketches and animation made MOLANG an overnight hit as a TV series broadcasted in over 190 territories. It is loved by all ages: moms, children, and even teens.
From sketches of a school notebook, MOLANG and its growing Pinco family proved to be an organic success. According to its website, the character seeks to spread the values of friendship, happiness, empathy, and positivity everywhere it goes. Aside from the TV series, they also have a huge collection of merchandise including dolls, figures and toys, office supplies, accessories, and home essentials. MOLANG is known for its pastel colors and cuddly characteristic, and it shows in one of their featured products, a shoulder bag.
One of the biggest character brands in South Korea, KAKAO FRIENDS characters originated from the mobile application ‘KAKAO Talk‘. The brand is popular not just in Korea, but also globally. This is the reason why KAKO FRIENDS is also available on Amazon. With 30 branches in Korea, the brand is undoubtedly a household name in its country. Especially its main character, RYAN, together with other ‘friends’ like Apeach, Muzi, and Scappy. Get to know more of them on the KAKAO FRIENDS’ website.
Just like other character brands, KAKAO FRIENDS also offers a variety of cute and useful merchandise. Categories include toys, accessories, apparel, leisure items, mobile accessories, living essentials, stationeries, pajamas, electronics, and even food. They have a lot of products that some of its offline stores require five floors to display all of. But if it’s your first time with them, you can look for its featured products in the ‘Hot‘ section on the online store like the RYAN and Choonsik mini handy fan.
LINE FRIENDS Corporation is a Korean company under NAVER that works on animated movies and games. Their purpose is to create harmony between their IT and merchandise departments to expand their reach. Through their messenger app, LINE, they showcase their adorable characters called BROWN and FRIENDS. Not only that, but they also house BT21, BRAWL STARS, WDZY, and TRUZ under the FRIENDS CREATOR Project.
You can check out their website for apparel, toys, accessories, office items, handbags, home essentials, and electronics merchandise. They also have ‘collections’ that include a set or package of pretty and practical character items that you will surely love! This BROWN and FRIENDS loungewear set is an example.
DUCKY WORLD houses a number of well-known character brands like Sanrio, Marvel, Spongebob, Tom and Jerry, Janggu, and Pingu. They have accessories, toys, pouches, and pajamas. But one of their distinct products is their tableware. The simple design and colors of the plates, bowls, mugs, and cutleries will suit any household. Here is an example:
South Korea has been considered the ultimate place for shopping. And it is a little overwhelming knowing all the things that you can buy there. But there is certainly something for what you’re looking for. Like these character brand stores that you won’t usually see in Western countries, you will surely have a lot of choices in Korea. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is better to shop online. You can use the worldwide shipping, consolidating, and personal shopping services of DELIVERED KOREA to purchase your favorite character goods.