[PyeongChang 2018] Will Inmyeonjo emoji take off?

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Who holds the copyright for the human-faced bird?

  • Published : Feb 13, 2018 - 19:04
  • Updated : Feb 13, 2018 - 19:04

Twitter user @sobong_xo became the sudden center of attention on Monday, after she posted an image of a set of emojis featuring Inmyeonjo, the human-faced bird that went viral following its appearance in the PyeongChang Olympics opening ceremony. More than 35,000 people shared the image of the emojis within a day, expressing both the desire to spend money on the item, and worries over the copyright.

Inmyeonjo, with a tiny human head attached to an elongated neck on a giant body of a white bird, piqued public interest with its grotesque look and its connections to the significance of the Olympics and Korean history and culture. The bird, as it turned out to be a big surprise for even Koreans, is a mythical creature from Buddhism during the Goguryeo Kingdom, which is believed to live in paradise and sing with the most beautiful voice in heaven only audible to those with pure hearts.

Image of emojis featuring Inmyeonjo, suggested for commercialization to Kakaotalk, a major mobile messenger service in Korea. This image was retweeted over 35,000 times as of Feb. 13. (Twitter user @Sobong_XO)

The emojis shown on Twitter were apparently designed by the original uploader’s brother, who has submitted it to Kakaotalk, the biggest mobile messenger service in Korea, for review to be available for commercial use.

Kakaotalk’s manager Ryu Hyun-jung confirmed on Tuesday that the company has indeed received the submission of Inmyeonjo emojis, but that it is still too early stage to say if the item will pass the approval procedure. Ryu added that the viral emoji image is not the only submission featuring Inmyeonjo that has knocked on the doors of Kakaotalk. She declined to specify how many Inmyeonjo emojis are being considered.

Kakaotalk receives a weekly average of 500 emoji submissions, and each submission requires two weeks to review.

The service looks at the ethical standards of the creations and whether the items are original and yet relevant for the sociocultural trend of the time. The exact criteria for review are strictly kept confidential. When an emoji is denied approval, Kakaotalk does not offer an explanation.

Whether the anticipated item will actually hit the market hangs on the copyright of the bird. The PyeongChang Olympics Organizing Committee has said that after the opening ceremony, the event’s copyright goes to the International Olympics Committee. The IOC was not reachable for immediate comment on the matter.

Korean users wishing to see more Inmyeonjo products said that the bird image is not limited to the PyeongChang Olympics, as it is a mythical creature dating back to 37 BC.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (