As you likely know by now, Korea has become a very industrious country. Leading technology companies such as Samsung and LG are Korea based, while Hyundai has built a powerful conglomerate in car making, heavy equipment, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, apartments, and shopping centers. It should come as no surprise then, that a nation of technological innovators should create its own social media application. KakaoTalk is an instant messaging app that allows group and 1-on-1 chats and file sharing. The app functions similar to WhatsApp, and in the past few years has expanded to include Kakao Pay, for online purchases, gaming, and Kakao Mobility, a taxi service to challenge Uber. Kakao is the must-have app in Korea, in use by about 93% of Korean smartphone users. In a country of 52 million connected people, that’s a lot of users.
For the young, Kakao Friends is a line of cartoon mascot characters, including Ryan and Apeach, who adorn everything from plush toys to phone cases, and can be purchased online, via your KakaoTalk app (of course), and from a chain of retail outlets.
KakaoTalk has even become instrumental in the response to the coronavirus outbreak in Korea. The app can generate a QR code that includes the user’s identification information. Then, when visiting a restaurant or other business, patrons get their QR code scanned at the site. The details are then uploaded to the country’s national health database. If an outbreak occurs in a particular area, any patrons in that vicinity can then be immediately contacted and sent for testing or quarantined. This application, plus the application of a little common sense, has helped limit Korea’s COVID-19-related fatalities to under 1,300, less than one-tenth of Canada’s total.
Considering Kakao Talk is available in a number of different languages, don’t be too surprised if you notice your friends ask you if you’re on Kakao. Korean innovation has a way of quickly going global.