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TUE, 2014-12-23  KST

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Korea's messaging application draws a Line to success
Updated: 2014-08-11 22:00:26 KST

From cups and credit cards, to coffee cans and even subway trains.
These characters are just some of the emoticons available on Line,.. one of the world's top messaging application companies.
The Korean firm has amassed over 400 million users, mostly in Asia.
And Line believes these emoticons, so-called stickers, that have been localized to different cultures,. have been key to their success.

"In the Islamic cultural area, there's Ramadan, so we made characters that look hungry. For countries like Brazil and Turkey, we made our characters look more muscular because our cutesy characters aren't popular there."

The exploding popularity of these stickers has given birth to a wide range of spin-off merchandise and offline stores are popping up around Asia, with Seoul being no exception.

(Stand-up)
"This is Cony the Rabbit,… one of the mascots for Line. The popularity of characters like this have made this store a major tourist destination. Its sales per day? Up to fifteen-thousand U.S. dollars."

And now, Line is aiming to take a leap further into the U.S. and European markets.
Line is preparing to list its shares in Tokyo and is also considering New York, as it tries to get the financial backing it needs to take on its rival Tencent's Wechat or Facebook's Whatsapp.
And their prospects are looking pretty good.

"Line has caught up to Twitter by 90-percent in terms of sales and about 70-percent in terms of users. At this rate, Line may be valued at 28 billion U.S. dollars by early next year and exceed Twitter's market value."

But for all the hype, some still warn that Line has yet to prove its successful formula outside of Asia.

"There's an obvious bubble, you could even call it the Line bubble. Either its stock could stabilize on the back of strong growth, or it could burst and its stock would plunge."

Analysts say the next few years will be decisive in the global messaging market, as users tend to stick to the most widely used app.
Line says it will focus on expanding its user base from continent to continent, hoping its culture-centric characters will win the hearts of new users.
Yoo Li-an, Arirang News.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License

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