Kakao, the Google Of Korea

6 min readFeb 11, 2021
Kakao Talk is one of the most popular applications in Korea

Outside of Korea Kakao Corporation (“Kakao”) is an obscure name. Yet, inside Korea it is a giant. Other than Naver, it is the company most responsible for bringing Korea into the Web 2.0 age. Millions of Koreans use the Kakao Talk messaging application several times a day. Kakao Bank is revolutionizing the way Koreans bank. Kakao T transformed the taxi industry in Korea. Kakao M is spearheading Korea’s Kpop revolution and music streaming services. It also goes head to head with Naver in many categories including Maps, portal (Daum v Naver), social media, webtoons and payment services.

The beginnings

Kim Bum Soo, a decorated star in the Korean Tech scene started Kakao in 2010. Starting as an ex-Samsung employee running a PC Cafe, Kim Bum Soo had built Hangame, one of the original Korean Software titans. Hangame later merged with Naver to form NHN Corporation, the predecessor to Naver Corporation.

Kim had led NHN Corporation’s expansion efforts in America, but quit in 2007 and took a leave of absence from the Korean tech scene. With the advent of the iPhone and iOS Appstore, Kim decided to return back to Korea in 2009 and develop for the new platform. The result was Kakao Talk, one of the first native messenger applications. For comparison, Kakao Talk debuted in March 2010, mere mere months after Whatsapp’s release in February 2009.

KakaoTalk became the dominant messenger application in Korea. Starting from 5 million users in December 2010, the numbers sky-rocketed to 70 million users a mere two years later. As of March 2020, 87 percent of Korean’s actively use KakaoTalk and more than 11 billion messages are sent every day.

The Daum merger

Kakao Corporation in its modern incarnation is much more than KakaoTalk. In 2014, Kakao merged with Daum Communications to form Daum Kakao (later renamed Kakao Corporation).

This was a huge event in the Korean software scene. Daum had a long history in Korea being the second largest Web portal in Korea (behind…


Software Engineer, and avid learner of history.