Line between Korean kids and adults blurs

In South Korea, with the rapid growth of the kidult and adulkid markets, it seems that the line between kids and adults has been blurring.  Let’s discuss these two trends in this blog post.


You may have already heard the term “kidult” which is a combination of the words “kid” and “adult”, and refers to adults having keen interest in kids’ items like cute characters, colourful bricks, stuffed toys, animated characters, etc. Nowadays, there are a wide range of items used by adults which have cute or animated characters imprinted on them, and figurines of Spider Man, Iron Man, Gundam and Star Wars-related characters collected by adults.

Key reasons for this kidult phenomenon include: (i) the kidults, who now have paid jobs, wish to purchase the kid’s items which they did not have the financial capacity to buy when they were kids; and (ii) these kids’ items may remind the kidults of their joyful and stress-free childhood, providing an escape for the kidults from the stressful adult lives. While the kidult phenomenon may also be found in other countries, the kidult market has been growing rapidly in South Korea – according to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the Korean market for kidults is worth more than 1 trillion won (US$880 million) as of 2016.  Maybe the Korean society is too stressful for adults given the highly competitive job market, and heavy workloads and family responsibilities, and the kidult products can provide a good temporary escape from the reality for them.


On the other hand, in South Korea, the term, “adulkid”, has recently appeared. The term “adulkid” is a combination of the words “adult” and “kid” and refers to kids looking and behaving like adults.  In the Korean society which puts strong emphasis on appearance, the adulkid trend has been seen in the beauty-related fields, like cosmetics, manicure and spa. One of the reasons for the rise of this trend is that parents wish to share their beauty experience with their kids and also enjoy making their kids look pretty.

According to the local e-commerce platform, SK Planet, in 2017, sales of children’s cosmetics on its website increased 29% on an annual basis with lipstick sales shooting up nearly 550%, nail polish 233%, and make-up boxes 101%. That’s why the cosmetic companies are using a variety of marketing strategies to attract these adulkid customers.  For example, a cosmetics shop set up a separate corner for children’s make-up. Some cosmetics products are designed to resemble characters which are popular among the kids or are made of ingredients which are not harmful to kids. A department store has allocated a whole floor providing facilities like kids’ playground and spa corner offering manicures and foot spa for children and their parents to enjoy a variety of activities together. It is expected that this trend may extend to other fields like fashion and lifestyle as well.

Maybe sometime in the future when you travel to South Korea, you may find it difficult to distinguish between kids and adults!

Reminder: You can follow my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the sidebar to receive email notifications of new posts.  For flash news on Korean culture, you can also follow me on Twitter (Kalbi8888).



Park Hee-jun, ” ‘Adulkids’ in Korea adopting adults’ beauty practices“, Arirang News, 2018-01-12

Song Sang-ho, ” ‘Kidult’ culture spreading among Korean grown-ups“, Yonhap News Agency, 2017-08-24

Kim Mok-yeon, “Kidult market growing rapidly in Korea“, Arirang News, 2016-07-23

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