Gwiyomi(귀요미), a personified word of an adjective cutie, is directly translated into ‘cutie,’ and is used to describe cute people, animals and even objects. The term sprung up by the rise of the popular ‘cutie song’ by a Korean singer Hari released last year, which racked up more than ten million views on YouTube and was listed in the US Billboard charts. Ever since, Koreans have been crazy for cuties more than ever, with its birth in the entertainment industry and now expanded to government-funded public art schemes.
This ‘everything cute’ trend can be easily noticed both offline and online in Korea, where several TV shows featuring celebrities’ offsprings often top off the viewing rate charts and videos of cute pets or babies racking up millions of views on social media channels. Young moms are opening up Facebook pages for their babies with ‘star babies’ rising, and videos of kids welcoming their dad’s arrival back home or pets showing off their cuteness are getting viral.
Starting from last year, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) launched Tayo buses after the popular animation series Tayo the Little Bus, in which buses were designed as the characters as an initiative to teach children how to use the bus. With the cute eyes on the otherwise dull buses, SMG’s idea was a big success, drawing 40,000 crowds in a single day and children from other areas coming up to Seoul to see the Tayo buses. Now, Tayo buses are designed in Rudolph reindeers with horns attached near their side mirrors in step with the festive season.
由去年開始，首爾市政府便推出了「泰路巴士」，「泰路」其實是卡通片「泰路小巴士」（Tayo the Little Bus）的主角，而這卡通片是用來教育小朋友如何乘搭巴士。這個意念不止獲得大成功，還吸引了每天約4萬個來自不同地區的小朋友來到首爾一睹「泰路巴士」的風采，現在「泰路巴士」也設計成聖誕鹿的樣子來迎接聖誕。
With this enormous support, subways trains wrapped around in the character series Larva appeared starting from November, and a Pikachu flashmob in central Seoul had to be shut down due to unexpected crowd. Lastly, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s famous Rubber Duck Project arrived in Korea this fall, creating lots of parodies after it deflated on its first day of exhibition.
So what is up with all this ‘cutie craze?’ One argument to support this phenomenon would be the rise of Kidults. Kidult, a compound word of the words kid and adult, describes adults interested in childlike figures or behavior. Mostly comprised of those who have entered parenthood and a have a stable source of income, Kidults constantly seek for everything cute. The boundary between entertainment for adults and children are getting blurry, as businesses are marketing products tailored for both kids and adults.
Florentijn Hofman, the creator of the famous inflatable rubber duck that traveled around major cities around the world, explains the reasons for the artwork’s success as ‘healing.’ The official website reads:
The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation. The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them. The rubber duck is soft, friendly and suitable for all ages!
The cutie phenomenon doesn’t seem to fade away fast. Spotting a cute Tayo bus on the way back home after a tiring day at work? Watching a video of cute little babies? Why not.