Korean mobile messengers vying for Southeast Asian market
Two Korean mobile messenger services are competing to garner a bigger share in the fast-growing Southeast Asian smartphone markets, officials said Tuesday.
NHN Corp., the operator of Korea's top Internet portal NHN, said it has newly introduced Line, its flagship messenger service, for users of BlackBerry phones made by Research In Motion (RIM), following a similar move by Kakao Corp.
NHN has been operating the free group messenger application for users of iPhone and Google's Android-based smartphones since June 2011.
Since its launch, Line has rapidly become one of the most popular applications for mobile devices in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
The company's latest move is aimed at tapping consumers in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Thailand, where BlackBerrys are popular among smartphone users, NHN officials said.
The popularity of the BlackBerry in the region is due to RIM's social networking service, as mobile networks provided by telecom operators there have yet to be fully developed.
"We have tied up with local telecom operators, such as Thailand's Advanced Info Service PCL, in order to cooperate in local marketing activities," said an official at NHN.
Line for BlackBerry phones was launched three months after rival Kakao Talk, Korea's most-used mobile messenger started its service for those users in May.
Free messenger Kakao Talk, first released in March 2010, has rapidly replaced charged text messages for smartphone users in Korea, which launched on the back of the country's smartphone craze upon the arrival of Apple's iPhone at the end of 2009.
The application is now available in Thai and Indonesian languages in addition to Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. Line supports the last four languages.
"The popularity of Korean pop culture in Southeast Asia has definitely boosted our business there. An increasing number of users there enjoy receiving real-time messages from Korean pop stars through the Plus Friend function," a Kakao official said.
Plus Friend is one of the features provided on Kakao Talk, in which pop stars can send news and videos to their fans.
Kakao Talk has so far lured 35 million users in South Korea, in addition to 21 million abroad.
In comparison, NHN's Line has a firmer foothold outside South Korea, with 50 million users being overseas out of its total of 54 million.
Kakao and NHN have recently launched Web feed-based social networking services, called Kakao Story and Timeline, respectively.
Both companies expect their mobile messenger users will migrate to their own Facebook-like services.