Kakao Friends’ Ryan: South Korea is Obsessed…and I Am Too!


Moving abroad changes people in interesting ways. The way you greet people in shops, the way you act around your friends, the way you eat, what you eat, when you eat; your lifestyle changes. Your interests and tastes also change. You start to like things that you wouldn’t ordinarily take an interest in. And oh boy, has this ever happened to me!

Before I moved to Korea I wasn’t really into the whole emoji scene. I hated the clothing with emojis on, I hated the decorative emoji cushions, and don’t get me started on the obsession with the poop emoji. However, since living in Seoul I have become a rather avid fan of Ryan – one of the Kakao Friends characters.

For those who don’t know, KakaoTalk is the Korean version of Whatsapp. It’s run by Kakao, a large internet company who also have apps such as KakaoStory (like Facebook), KakaoMusic, and even KakaoTaxi (what is an “Uber” anyway?), among a plethora of other services to serve your everyday life. When you first download KakaoTalk, there are a set of emojis/character emoticons that are pre-installed, showcasing the basic range of, what are now known as, the Kakao Friends. They have names, personalities, and even relationships between themselves! They have become increasingly popular over the years, to the point where there are entire shops dedicated to KakaoFriends merchandise, and recently a new face was introduced to the gang: Ryan.

Kakao Friends, Ryan, KakaoTalk

World, meet Ryan

According to the character information page on the KakaoFriends website, Ryan “is a male lion born without a mane” who is “broad and burly” and has been adopted as the leader of the KakaoFriends gang. He has taken the country by storm, being accepted and loved not only by his electronic companions, but the millions of Kakao users also. He has just as much merch as the other characters, if not more. You want Ryan pyjamas? You can buy them. A Ryan oven glove? It’s yours! A four-foot tall Ryan cuddly toy? You’ve got it!

Kakao Friends, Ryan, KakaoTalk

Bitten by the Ryan bug

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a firm Ryan convert. I never thought I would get caught up in the Kakao Friends madness, but there’s something about the little brown bear lion that has grabbed my heart (and my wallet) and had me running to the shops to buy everything and anything Ryan-related. I have Ryan tissue boxes (at home and in my classroom at work), Ryan sticky notes, Ryan plasters, a Ryan USB-powered fan (I mean look at him, he’s in a plane!), Ryan stickers, and even a Ryan earring for my helix piercing. My latest addition is a Ryan phone case which I’m in love with. Isn’t he just the coolest guy? (Don’t answer that.)

I think it’s his eyebrows that have me loving him so much. No-nonsense, straight-up, stand-up Ryan (who rejected his status as royalty on the fictional Doong Doong Island, I’ll have you know) is a firm favourite for me and the rest of Korea. Who is your favourite Kakao Friend?

6 responses to “Kakao Friends’ Ryan: South Korea is Obsessed…and I Am Too!”

  1. Right then, lets see if this works on my laptop! This little fella is so bloody cute! I havent seen him before but he reminds me so much of a character I loved as a child called bad mood bear, that was my absolute favourite book 🙂

    • hannahinternational says:

      Oh I remember Bad Mood Bear! His face used to scare me. Ryan’s not angry, he just has those straight eyebrows which I love him for. Unless you use KakaoTalk you probably won’t have heard of him, or any of the others!

  2. Giana says:

    I do feel like I’ve seen this little fella before! the merch is adorable xx



  3. sirvikalot says:

    This little guy is so cute. I have a friend who I used to pen pal with and she’s really into Japanese and Korean stationary and I think that she sent me some letter paper with a similar character on it.
    I think I would quickly become obsessed with Ryan too. He’s so much cuter than any Western emojis.

    V <3

  4. Some of this was lost on me, but it’s fascinating to see something which has caused a craze in another country! I can’t help but think he looks a little grumpy…in a cute way of course 🙂

    • hannahinternational says:

      It’s the eyebrows!! He’s adorable. In fact I bought even more Ryan stuff today! Hahaha. I’m obsessed!

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