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KakaoTalk: how to download, use the app and a guide to Friends

Literally everyone (93% of the population) in Korea uses KakaoTalk, the messaging app. More and more people outside Korea and even Obama uses the app with which you also can interact with companies or bands, do shopping and read the news! This article will tell you everything about the important things of KakaoTalk – it is the ultimate guide. The contents are:

  • The company KakaoTalk
  • How to download KakaoTalk
    • KakaoTalk web
  • Kakao Friends
  • Emoticons
  • About the app KakaoTalk
    • Gift shop
    • How to find friends
    • Log out
    • KakaoTalk advertising
    • What is the # (sharp) button for?
    • Types of chat

Let’s dive in!

The company KakaoTalk

Kakao is the corporation that developed the KakaoTalk app. Kakao company is a merger between Daum and Kakao. Daum is Korea’s third largest search engine / portal. Its rival Naver is Korea’s biggest search engine. In truly Korean fashion, the app (which launched in 2010) took Korea virally by storm. You could even argue that Kakao is Korea’s most successful startup. Its company culture is open and has a flat hierarchy. Tencent, the legal name of Chinese app WeChat, owns 13.5% of Kakao. Kakao’s subsidiaries are:

  • Kakao M (owned 76.40%)
  • Kakao Games
  • Kakao Friends
  • Kakao Mobility
  • Path, Inc.
  • Lycos, Inc.
  • Ground X

Besides the app KakaoTalk, the company publishes other apps like Daum, Daum Cafe, Daum Webtoon, KakaoMetro, KakaoBus, KakaoMap, Tistory, Brunch, KakaoMusic, KakaoHairshop and KakaoStory.

How to download KakaoTalk

There are multiple ways to download and install KakaoTalk, all of them are free.

Things to watch out for when installing the app:

  • You don’t need a Korean mobile phone number to use KakaoTalk – but many functions like # and shopping / gifting may not work without a Korean phone number.
  • Also, always back up your chats if you change numbers / device etc!
  • You cannot ever change the email address that is associated with your KakaoTalk account. So choose your email address carefully!

KakaoTalk web

You can download the web application of Kakao and login to KakaoTalk on your desktop or laptop. It is not possible yet to use Kakao in your browser. A screenshot of Kakao PC is below.

Source: https://www.kakaocorp.com/service/KakaoTalk?lang=en

Some features of the PC version are:

  • Send files
  • Chat room with an Excel look
  • Change chat room transparency
  • Remote log out
  • Lock mode for privacy protection
  • Voice call / video call

Kakao Friends

Part of KakaoTalk’s identity and attractiveness comes from its emoticons, the funny and cute Kakao Friends.

Perhaps the most famous “Friend” is Ryan, the lion without a mane – who is not a bear (shock)!

Ryan: A male lion whose complex is his absence of a mane.
“He is often misunderstood because of his large build and impassive expression, but in fact, he has an unexpected charm with the sensitivity of a young girl! Ryan was originally the successor to the throne on Dung Dung Island in Africa, but he escaped for a life of freedom! He is the reliable advisor among the Kakao Friends. His tail is short because it would be easy for him to get caught if it was long.”

If you want to use Kakao Friends stickers in your chats, there are simply too many sets to choose from! You can purchase them or send them as a gift. But don’t worry, many emoticons are also free and come automatically with KakaoTalk as soon as you download it.

kakao friends emoticons

You can also buy old fashioned adhesive stickers, that you can buy from Amazon, for example. Or, what about these cool looking enamel pins?

When in Seoul, you may have seen the photogenic Kakao Stores. Follow the link to check the locations of the stores. Not in Seoul? No problem, you can also find all kinds of the merchandise online.

kakao friends store

The KakaoTalk emoticons are so popular, that many companies design their own custom sticker sets for their promotions. Brands create their own stickers and give away coupons to grow their Kakao Channel (which is similar to a Facebook Page).


Kakao emoticon studio

Do you want to create and sell emoticons for Kakao? That is possible with Kakao emoticon studio. You can sign up for Kakao emoticon studio with your Kakao ID. You can submit regular, moving and big emojis.

You cannot give away your emoticons for free, people have to pay for them to Kakao. The only emoticons that are free are emojis that were created by brands and special promotions.

Kakao emoticon shop

How to buy emoticons? You can visit the Kakao store in the app on your smartphone or via the website: https://e.kakao.com/. You can gift or purchase emojis there. You can use bank card (the card connected to your app / store account when on mobile) or Kakao Pay. Kakao Pay is not available yet for foreigners.

About the app KakaoTalk

Gift shop

One of the functions in KakaoTalk is sending gifts. There are many kinds of gifts that you can send. Below is a screenshot of the gift shop. Like mentioned before, you may need a Korean phone number to send gifts.

kakao gift shop

How to find friends

How to find friends on KakaoTalk? You can sync your phone’s address book with KakaoTalk. So if your contact has Kakao, that person will automatically show up. If you want to add someone new, there are 4 ways to do it, like in the screenshot below.

kakao add friend

Just added a contact but (s)he is not in your friends list? Follow the steps below to update your contacts and to make your new friend appear.

  • Tap the gearbox in the top right corner
  • Manage friends
  • Refresh

Log out

Logged into a public device (desktop or laptop), but you want to log out? Grab your smartphone and follow the steps to log out remotely.

  • Click the gearbox in the top right
  • Go to “General Setting”
  • Go to “Privacy”
  • Go to “Manage Devices”
  • Go to “Registered Devices”
  • Remove the device you want to log out from.

Kakaotalk advertising

Besides creating your own custom made emoticons, there are many ways to promote your company in KakaoTalk. First, you need to make a “KakaoTalk Channel“. This is a company page where you can:

  • Post updates (with text, images and links)
  • Attract followers
  • Send messages to followers
  • Chat with followers (live or chatbot)
  • Post frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Start a shopping channel
  • Give away coupons
  • Advertise your channel / website / app

Check out the media kit and services to find out more about the advertising options!

Interested in a Business Channel? Read this blog post for more info: https://punchkorea.com/kakaotalk-business-channel/.

What is the # (sharp) button for?

In the Kakaotalk mobile app menu, one of the four icons in the bottom is #. Doesn’t it remind you of a hashtag in Instagram? It is a little different in Kakaotalk.

kakaotalk menu

Click it and you will see various media released news and entertainment contents such as news, shopping, movies, or sports appear. These are all sourced by ‘Daum news’ and the online community service ‘Daum Cafe’ (a Cafe is similar to a Facebook Group or subreddit).

You will also find “#” right next to the text box and emoticon button in your chat room. Press # then type in a word you want to look up. It will search and return results in people, news, images, websites from Daum’s search engine.

kakaotalk sharp button

Have you ever had to switch apps to a browser or search engine to look something up while in chat with your buddy? In Kakaotalk chat you don’t need to do that at all. You can just do your search right there in the chat without going back and forth. Sharing the result with your contact is easy. Just press the yellow speech bubble buttom in the below. How convenient!

kakao sharp results

Note: the sharp (#) menu is only available if you use KakaoTalk with a Korean mobile number OR if you change the app language to Korean!

Types of chat

Besides the regular chat we all are familiar with, there is also a little unknown “Secret Chat” and fascinating “Open Chat” in Kakaotalk.

kakaotalk chat types

Firstly, secret chat is used to protect privacy in a 1 on 1 chat. Ideal for any user who is privacy conscious. Similar to secret chat in Telegram, Kakaotalk secret chat also uses end to end encryption and leaves no traces on their server. It just saves the data in your mobile. Secret chat is not accessible from Kakaotalk on your computer (like WhatsApp). It won’t show a preview of messages or photos unless you click and enter in that specific secret chat room. Instead of preview, it simply says ‘secret message’.

Next, there we have the bursting Open Chat. Open Chat room is a place where any Kakaotalk user can join and interact with others. Users are free to join and create a new chat room of their own interests. For example, there is an English Premier League Fan chatroom, a doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals chatroom and a Tesla model 3 owners chatroom – these are just few to name.

It seems certain that the open chat creates a new space where users share and connect with people beyond their contact lists. It has also become a hot place where marketing and advertising is very active.

Authors: Sohee So and JK Song


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