A kidult is a blend of the word ‘kid’ and ‘adult’, meaning an adult who has childlike tastes, and has interests in things that are traditionally seen as suitable for children.
The interests of kidults are diverse and vast. It could involve enjoying children’s entertainment (like cartoons and comics), collecting dolls, figurines of animated characters, or can range to building blocks, RC cars and drones and even model weapons.
In Korea, the term is no longer reserved for edgy 20-somethings. In fact, the kidult demographic mostly consists of people in their 30s to 40s.
Only Grown Ups Allowed
While some kidults may enjoy children’s playthings, the improved quality of products give a new definition to the word ‘toy’. The kidult products have surpassed children’s interests and abilities.
In fact, the kidult market is incredibly sophisticated.
Limited edition comic books and collectable dolls and figures are bordering on art pieces, as they are valued for their aesthetic. Even the CEO of one of the biggest entertainment companies in Korea, Yang Hyun-Suk of YG Entertainment is a known collector of “BE@RBRICK” figures. These products are incredibly expensive.
High tech gadgets such as drones and RC (remote-controlled) cars are also under the kidult umbrella. Intricate Lego models and DIY pieces are also incredibly popular, and definitely only for adults.
As kidults become more widely accepted and universally acknowledged, it seems that Kidult culture is playing a more significant role in Korean modern culture.
Korea’s Unique Kidult Market
The kidult market has been rapidly growing. Reports have shown that the sales of RC toys have surged by 95% from last year on the shopping website Auction.
There are currently over 300 online communities dedicated to these adult hobbyist, with 10 to 50 thousand members in each.
Why are Kidults On The Rise
Nostalgia and rekindling childhood are the main reasons for desiring children’s entertainment. These products are not only fun and exciting, but also remind adults of purer and a simpler time.
Being surrounded by toys and kidult entertainment is the ultimate stress-relief as grown-ups can escape their stifling lifestyle and social pressures to a fantasy world.
This is not always necessarily reluctance to accept adulthood, but could also be a need to feel eternal youth.
How Korea Is Catering To Kidults
As kidults are much older and have more cash to spend. They are reliable consumers so Korean culture has adapted for these consumers.
There have been more and more events being held for Kidults. Seoul and other large Korean cities hold huge Kidults fairs and conventions, where attendees can buy products and meet the community. Even special events are being hosted at malls, such as ‘Kidult Park’ at the IFC mall.
As kidult culture becomes more mainstream, character brands are collaborating with lifestyle product companies. Korea’s already successful beauty industry is collaborating with brands, such as Pixar, Disney and Kakao to create packaging that appeal to kidults.
Even convenience stores are targeting Kidults by giving away special character figurines by collecting points at the store.
More open and public places for kidults are popping up on the streets. Kidult cafes are places where people can enjoy drinks, while being surrounded by adorable characters, vintage figurines and other toys.
These ‘special edition products’ and Kidult experiences may be a tad more expensive than usual, but money is not a problem for kidults.
Will Kidults Eventually Grow Up?
While kids get bored and throw away toys easily and quickly, true kidult fans treasure their items and are faithful to brands for a long time. The Kidult market is already worth $600 million, but assuming that the current rate continues the Kidult industry is predicated to grow 20~30% yearly.
As the field of interests for kidults is so vast, everyone will most likely have some engagement in this niche culture. We all have a child inside us all, and sometimes we need to let them roam free and enjoy life.
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My radio segment on this topic (http://www.podbbang.com/ch/10121?e=22032791)