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Economic Recession Revives Kidult Culture
Kim Eun-ju  |  karen07000@hanyang.ac.kr
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[333호] 승인 2017.03.06  
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Since late 2016, the claw machine game has become popular among South Koreans. Websites have been posting tips about this game due to popular demand. Youtubers like Hong-seong obba have gained many subscribers in a short period of time by uploading content related to the claw machine game. Some Internet users went so far as to say that their ideal boyfriend is a man who is good at playing the claw machine game.

According to the MCST(Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) 500 vendors were registered as claw machine gaming stores (stores that only have claw machines). The number of such stores has increased 25 times since 2015 when there were only 21 vendors.

Claw games originated in the nineties. It first started out as entertainment for teens. The culture lasted a decade, until 2000. Then, claw gaming resurfaced recently, with the difference that it is being enjoyed by adults, including office workers and university students.

What is Kidult Culture?

The word “kidult” is a compound word formed by combining “kid” and “adult.” Kidults are adult consumers who spend money on collecting figurines, pla model, and playing with drones (remotecontrolled pilotless aircraft). To simply put it, kidults are adults who have kid-like hobbies. Accordingly, the kidult culture is defined as the revitalization of hobbies that both kids and adults enjoy.

Kidult consumers and culture increased in number and scale due to an increase in the number of one-person households, the trend of prioritizing consumption based on individual value, and the economic recession. A growing number of people who live by themselves have started to invest in hobbies that they enjoy, such as collecting figurines or character items. The economic recession contributed to this trend as people started to look for cheaper hobbies.

The Economic Recession: Oil to a Burning Flame

In light of the economic recession, many corporations have been using the kidult culture as a marketing tool, creating items that specifically target kidult consumers. Economic recessions triggers a sense of nostalgia that causes people to want to return to the past when the economic situation was better. As a result, corporations have been exploiting such sentimental feelings by incorporating characters and gaming hobbies from the past into their products.

According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the domestic character market has exceeded 500 billion won and experts forecast that the market will reach a trillion won within 2 years. This is mainly because many corporations try to promote their products through characters. In other words, the kidult market has grown because of the collaboration with other industries.

Take the cosmetics market as an example. Amore Pacific, a cosmetics conglomerate, started incorporating kidult features in their products in 2013. Currently, the market value has surpassed 1 trillion won, which represents an 18.3% increase in market value compared to last year's. Moreover, their operating profit has also increased by 23.1% since last year. Other cosmetic companies that used the kidult marketing technique such as LG Living Health saw an 8.1% growth in sales. Clearly, collaborating with kidult culture has a positive effect on companies’ interests.

Hobby stores are enjoying renewed popularity. Professor of Konkuk University, Beom Sang-kyu said that 16% of the adult population consider themselves as kidult consumers. Combined with the fact that such stores have low maintenance fees and personnel expenses, this is the main reason behind the increase in hobby stores.

The Kidult Culture Today and Tomorrow

It is expected that the kidult culture will play a significant role in industries in 2017. In addition to the aforementioned industries, the food industry and distribution industry have started to exploit the kidult culture as well. CEO Kang Yu-jin even forecast that the kidult market will grow with the help of social media. For example, Youtubers like CarriAndToys have contributed to strengthening the kidult culture by uploading video showing reviews of products.

The number of kidult shops has been increasing as well. Hobby Factory, a kidult shop that sells figures and characters, plans to increase the number of shops. The drone industry is also expected to grow since mini-drones have become popular among kidult consumers with their reasonable price.

According to Figure Museum W, Vice-curator Kim Hyesuk, the Figure Museum W has been paying attention to these trends, and decided to create a museum that specifically caters to kidult consumers. Recently, the Museum even held a variety of educational programs on kidult culture in an attempt to raise awareness of the culture. “The kidult culture is starting to become the norm, so we try to match the trends in our society by providing people with an educational opportunity where they can learn about and experience kidult culture.”

The Worth of the Kidult Culture

In conclusion, the kidult market, which started because of the economic recession, is now becoming a universal established part of our culture. Drones and toys are no longer used only by children, but provide enjoyment for adults as well. As a result, consumers can expect more and more aspects of kidult culture to seep into their daily lives. It is now the time to pay attention to what the kidult culture is really all about 

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