> CULTURE
Are You Really an Adult?
Kim Lee Charmseul  |  smt_1231@sm.ac.kr
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승인 2013.09.05  22:05:35
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Upon entering the café, instead of people, Hello Kitty dolls are found seated on all the chairs.  There are Hello Kitty dolls everywhere—on chairs, dishes, and tables, and there are even Hello Kitty shaped cakes.  Although it looks like a kids’ café, surprisingly most visitors in the café are women in their 20s-30s.  In the past, the character was reserved for children.  Therefore, adults who liked the cute characters were considered childish.  However, society has grown to understand people fascinated by cute characters.  We call adults who like childish things “Kidult.”

 

• No Border between Adult and Kid

   
  dept.galleria.co.kr

 

“Kidult” is new coined word for an adult who indulges in the culture of children.  The word Kidult emerged in early 2000.  At that time, Kidult was a negative word meaning ‘no matured adult.’1  Playing games, reading fantasy books, watching superhero movies, and collecting toys were regarded childish fetishes.  As people age and mature, we are considered adults and become estranged by these things.  This process is quite natural.  A person that continues with behavior and action that one did as a child is blamed by society for such childish behavior.  Adults are expected to behave like adults.  However, this conception is changing nowadays.  Many adults are fanatics when it comes to children culture, and this phenomenon has settled as a kind of new cultural trend.  The online employing site, SARAMIN, surveyed 949 adults in their 20s-30s.  The question asked was “What do you think about Kidult culture?”  The outcome was that 80.4% of people said that they think it is positive.  The top reason behind the outcome was they felt it to be related to “Personal Taste (67.4%).”  Other responses were “Kidult can lead to creative ideas” (9.2%), “It allows people to relax and relive stress” (8.5%), and “It gives one a huge sense of accomplishment” (4.2%).2

Kidult came into the spotlight at Galleria Luxury Hall in Apgujeong, Seoul.  Galleria Luxury Hall launched a large scale model toy brand named Replica, which has now become a dream brand for Kidults.3  In addition to this toy brand, there are other diverse characters for Kidults appearing.  LG Household & Health Care Ltd. launched two types of “Elastine perfume moisture essence” which are designed to appear unique with their cute girl-like dolls.  Although the design seems aimed at teenagers, it is also for Kidults.  The cosmetic brand ETUDE HOUSE in AMOREPACIFIC joined hands with Walt Disney and printed cute Disney characters on its sunscreen cream to target woman Kidults.4  In the media, the mighty superhero character Ironman captured 9 million people with its latest movie release, and the blockbuster has lead to the emergence of various parodies.  Clothing with the Ironman character is everywhere, and on the SBS variety show Running Man celebrities also utilize superheroes as script material.  Adults as well as children love it.  Now, Kidult is an accepted new cultural trend in society.  Kim Soyoung, Division of Business Administration at Sookmyung Women’s University said, “After turning twenty, I expected big changes, but there is no real, special change.  Many friends around me still like characters, and I do too.  It is not ridiculous or unusual.” Society no longer sees Kidult negatively.

   
  www.google.com

 

 
  www.ohmynews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
  www.google.com

 

• Hard Society Makes Soft People

Why is Kidult culture spreading?  Modern people live a boring and hard life with constant competition.  Kidult started the idea that people could escape reality.  In other words, it is the idea of escaping real life, which is intense because of the struggle to exist.  In real life getting a job is hard, and it is scary for adults in their 20s-30s. 
   
  www.google.com
Because of the challenge to get a job, the desire to escape from today’s cruel world and fear among adults have both increased.  People want vicarious satisfaction from symbols and goods that represent childhood.  Kim Mungyeum, Professor of Department of Sociology at Pusan National University said, “The economic depression and intense competition have instinctively made people turn to childhood entertainment.  Kidult culture has spread so much that it is now perceived positively.”5  In Korea, people get this attitude from childhood.  These days, children mature faster.  They can no longer be called children.  The object of their stress is Korea’s system of university entrance, and the pressure to get a job has now changed from high school students to middle school students.  For these reasons, kids cannot enjoy their childhood.  Some experts explain the reason why people like Kidults as industrial capital instigating a desire to return to one’s youth.6 

At the same time, Kidult culture enables adults to recall childhood memories.  It stimulates a series of nostalgia.  The memory of one’s childhood remains beautiful in one’s mind.  Because the present and future are always uneasy and ambiguous, people wish to return to their innocent youthful days.  An intense world and competition make adults aim for childlike purity.  People want to find the dreams and fantasies of their childhood because of rapid social changes.  Actually, it is human nature to long for one’s childhood, and with today’s environmental changes, people miss it even more.  Kidults are increasing, and as such Kidult has changed its meaning from ‘Regressive Ridiculous Adults.’  The society now positively accepts Kidult as a new age culture.

 

           

   
  www.google.com
   
  ww.hellokittycafe.co.kr
 

 

• Better Technology, the More Kidults

Most Kidults are in their 20s-30s.  These modern younger aged adults are of a generation that experienced both analog and digital.  Those who learned under an analog system when they were children became digitalized in
   
  www.google.com
adulthood.  As they became adults, the values that were pursued in childhood gradually disappeared.  Rapidly digitalizing makes people tired, and it can stimulate the fantasy that people want back.  The best example is “Art Toy.” Generally, art toy means putting artistic designs on toys that are manufactured.  Because of the artistic designs, items are coined adult toys.  The ‘Bear Brick’ in Japan and the ‘Ugly Doll’ in the U.S.A are examples.  The Bear Brick is quite affordable, which makes it attractive to people of today like Kidults who want possessions at cheap prices.  As a symbol of Kidult, art toy reflects an instinctive return to the analog era, a desire by people to forget their stuffy daily routine, and a longing to live a fantasy life.7  In addition to the desire for an analog lifestyle due to skepticism against digitalization, today’s developed science technology, which is digitalized, also makes to increase Kidults.  Compared to the past, accessibility to diverse media is easy because of digitalizing.  Media is the vehicle to increase Kidults.  The MBC variety program Father! Where are you Going makes people prefer friend-like fathers.  Accordingly, ‘Outdoor Kidults’ who enjoy free time with their kids outdoor have grown.  They are a new type of Kidults.  They share hobbies with their children and have changed the Kidult model.  In the past, passively being a Kidult was the general trend, but now being an active Kidult is popular.  According to I-Park Department Store, the rate of outdoor good sales like remote-controlled helicopters and cars have increased compared to last year.8  This outcome can be attributed to the development of science technology and restoration techniques, which naturally affects the growth of Kidults.

 

   
  PHOTO BY LCS

 

• Not Bad to Live Like a Kid

Raising a Kidult can cause Kidult culture to lose its natural meaning and become excessively commercialized.  Various department stores or luxury halls engaged in royal marketing to target Kidults.  Because of it, pure nostalgic thoughts of
   
  PHOTO BY LCS
youth are spoiled by bad gimmicks.  However, used properly, it can create new consumption items and contribute to economic growth.  Actually, Kidult culture doesn’t affect economic workings, so it is popular among business professionals.  Kang Sinju, Doctor of Philosophy at Yonsei University, said, “The age when one thinks a person becomes an adult differs.”9  Before considering oneself an adult, society already refers to us as an adult on the basis of age.  The burden of being titled an “Adult” is also too heavy to bear.  The world is a dangerous place, and people in their early 20s are too weak to enter it.  Kidult culture becomes a shelter that stimulates nostalgia of one’s younger days.  One psychologist said, “The left-brain of a human controls logical thinking and analytical skills while the right-brain controls space perception ability, artistic sense, emotional capability, and imagination.  Generally, before one is seven years old, people develop their right-brain.  After that, the left-brain develops, sensitively.  In other words, older people are more logical than younger people.  Nevertheless, a Kidult uses his/her left-brain, and as such, are more creative than normal people.”10  Like this, youthful thinking can help creative thought.  Is the boundary between an adult and kid and the creation of the word “Kidult” blocking creative ideas and limiting possibilities?

 

 

1  Lee Hongpyo, “Pursuit of Financial Margin+Fun…New Consumer’s Success Formular, Kidult Culture,” Korean Economy Magazine, October 22, 2009
2  Yonhapnews news release, “80% of 2030 Office Workers Said ‘I Like Kidult Culture’,” Yonhapnews, May 20, 2008
3  Jung Jeonguk, “Adults Who Have Kid-like Sense and Taste Look to Kidult Culture,” Sportsworld, June 25, 2013
4  Jeon Hyeyoung, “Girl Sensitivity Can Open One’s Wallet for ‘Catching Kidults’,” Money Today, July 16, 2013

5  Lee Saya, “I Want to Go Back… Increasing Number of ‘Kidults’ Playing with Toys,” Kukmin-il-bo, July 3, 2013
6  Kim Hunsik, “Pop Culture is Dominated by Kidults,” Dcnews, September 30, 2005
7  Jung Sangcheol, Adult “Art Toy for the Analog World,” Gwangju Dream, February 4, 2013

8  Kim Yerang, “Kidult Camping is More Fun Thanks to Fathers,” Kizmam, July 9, 2013
9 Yang Soyoung, “Lee Seungjae Discusses Kidult Culture, I don’t Know that it is Good or Bad,” WOWKoreaEconomyTV, June 22, 2013
10  Oh Narae, “Atom – Lee Nayoung, UFO - SeoTaeji, Representative of the Kidult Entertainment World?” BNT News, May 4, 2010

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