Itaewon & Line Friends

On Saturday, Sukhoon took us to Itaewon, which used to house a US Army base (or perhaps still does – we walked past a military base on the way home) and has developed into a very diverse ex-pat area of Seoul, with all kinds of international restaurants and markets with goods from around the world. It is also home to a big and lovely mosque that sits on top of a hill.

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The evening kicked off to a great start with this adorable, light up bow/headband that Sukhoon nicely brought for Aardvark. She adores it, and has been wearing it all over Tokyo. She pulls it over her eyes in the typhoon rains we’ve been experiencing, claiming it is her “hood.”

We also stopped at a Line Friends shop. Like, a huge, multi-story complex devoted to these adorable (well, mostly adorable. Sometimes adult-themed) characters we’d been seeing all over Seoul.

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Sukhoon explained that they are from an app (a talk-and-text messaging app) that is all the rage in Japan and Korea. (It’s true – we’ve been in Tokyo 2 1/2 days and seen them all over here too.) But apparently they are so beloved they have become a huge industry unto themselves, generating more characters (mostly, you see the cute characters pictured here. But, in order to make them “shame-free,” i.e., to make adults feel comfortable indulging in these cartoon characters, there are now several human-style characters, one of which seems to be perpetual drunk?!) and including several other apps (games, etc.), and toys, key chains, stationery, and more, featuring the characters.

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Emphasis on “and more.” Here is a display of coffee featuring these characters (coffee/phone app tie-ins?! I just don’t get it). There are versions of the famous Korean skincare “sheet masks” that feature these creatures, and they fly off the shelves. Seriously,if you can think of a product, these guys are probably branding some of them.

Here we are enjoying a video booth at the store. We had no idea how it worked or what it was doing (hence the general chaos happening in each frame) but thankfully Sukhoon could at least get us the video afterwards!

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Aardvark was THRILLED to pose with this giant bear. She could barely (OMG I’m restraining myself from the terrible and obvious pun. You should be grateful!) stop giggling (she’s watching me type this now and saying, “I want to take that bear home with me!” right this instant.)

The app does seem pretty handy. I’m considering getting it for my time in Japan, so I have access to texting. (When in Rome, or Tokyo, after all). So friends…you should totally consider getting it so I can text you 🙂

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