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KakaoTalk emoticon designers can earn more than average salaried worker

Creating characters for Kakao chatrooms has become a vocation all its own

By Nov 29, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Kakao Friends, mascots of tech conglomerate Kakao Corp.
Kakao Friends, mascots of tech conglomerate Kakao Corp.

It has been 10 years since tech giant KakaoCorp. launched emoticon services within its namesake messenger app KakaoTalk. 

Today, there are some 10,000 creators of the digital characters you can insert into your KakaoTalk messages. Together they generate some 700 billion won ($587,727) and their designers' ages range from 12 to 81 years old. 

Jung Hanna began creating such images in 2015 to pay for her college tuition. Once her Omogee character became a hit, she became a full-time emoticon creator. Every time someone downloads one of her creations, her "emoticon cherry blossom pension" grows. 


Back in 2010, KakaoTalk's userbase was just over 2 million and there was no strong winner in the domestic messenger industry. Kakao put its future into expanding its userbase and the emoticons are the result of such efforts. 

The idea was to bring life to emojis that were used in texts. The messenger company hired four well-known webtoon creators and after a year of prep, the first set of emoticons became available in November of 2011. 

With the help of the moving characters, the number of messages users sent skyrocketed.

In 2017, the emoticon contents platform transitioned into an open market, to enable more products and increase customer satisfaction.

Examples of popular KakaoTalk 'emoticons'
Examples of popular KakaoTalk 'emoticons'


Industry experts say Kakao and the creators split the revenue 50:50.

A total of 1392 emoticons have reached at least 100 million won ($83,972) in accumulated sales. Of that number 92 raked in more than a billion won, and five more than 10 billion won. 

By age group, those in their 20s account for almost half of the creators, followed by 30- and 40-somethings. 

Not only that, emoticons create a platform for developing new intellectual property. 

Some items have led to the creation of pop-up stores and animations. 

Following the gifting feature within KakaoTalk, which also debuted in late 2010, emoticons are the second-biggest money-making feature of the app. As the company vowed to never charge for the messaging itself, creating a source of revenue has become a key driver for KakaoTalk's sustainability. 

Write to Koo Min-ki at

Jee Abbey Lee edited this article. 
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