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Advanced KakaoTalk paranoia tips

kakao friends
blue dot
Dec 26 2014

Imagine that you are out somewhere and you meet a cute Korean of the compatible gender. Being the suave individual that you are, you exchange Kakao IDs. So easy! So much less pressure than exchanging phone numbers! You congratulate yourself on your suave ways, go home, and, after an appropriate time, decide to send your new crush a message.

You want it to sound casual. You consider, “Hi, how’s it going?” before realizing that they might not be familiar with that English expression. If so, you’re going to get a confused, awkward reply. “How what goes? Sorry, my English is not good ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ”.

So you decide on “Hi, how are you?” Simple style!, as my students like to say, whenever they do a half-assed job on something. To make it seem more friendly, you decide to append a KakaoTalk emoticon to the end of the message. You consider – what character expresses my casual tone best? Apeach, with its ass-like head, or Black Jay-G**See the postscript, the vaguely racist squirrel thing with an Afro?

Yes, they have names.

You decide to play it safe with Muzi, the radish in a rabbit suit. Your message perfected, you hit send, and…

Nothing. No reply. Welcome to KakaoTalk hell.

The little 1

The agony of waiting for a reply to a text message is not a new phenomenon, and has been explored in BuzzFeed articles and the like. But Kakao adds a new layer of complexity. As anyone familiar with the app knows, when you send a message, your text appears with a small 1 next to it, indicating that the person hasn’t yet read the message. When they see it, the 1 disappears.

That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, it’s a Byzantine world of etiquette and illusion. The 1, by the way, indicates that one person hasn’t read it yet. So in a group chat it will display a different number, depending on the number of people in the conversation. This number will count down as people read the message. This can lead to its own sort of paranoia, and messages like this:

kakao messages

But let’s stay with our scenario. Not only has your crush not replied, but the little 1 has not disappeared.

Have they not seen your message? Of course they’ve seen it! As everyone knows, KakaoTalk conversations display a snippet of the conversation on the Chats screen, which you can read without deactivating the 1. And you can also swipe down your notifications and read the most recent Kakao message in full, before deciding to ignore it.

There’s an etiquette. Deactivating the 1 and then ignoring someone is rude. But leaving the 1 and reading the message via your notifications is fair game. It creates a polite fiction: sorry, busy! Didn’t see your message!

(Of course they saw your message. It’s Korea. Nobody goes five minutes without checking their phone.)

As you wait, you will be tempted to check the conversation from time to time, to see if the 1 has disappeared. So, six hours later, you check in, and the 1 has disappeared. They’ve seen your message! You contemplate this for a moment, and re-read your own message – yep, that was a good choice of emoticon. As you are doing this, disaster strikes. Your crush replies! Because you are looking at the conversation as it comes in, your own 1 is deactivated instantly, and your crush can see it happen.

You are now crazy stalker person who has been staring at the conversation for six hours straight. There is no coming back from this.

Advanced Kakao Paranoia Tip #1: Resist the urge to constantly check if the 1 has been deactivated. And if you do check, get in and out quickly, especially if the 1 has disappeared.

The quick emoticon follow-up

Let’s assume that you avoid this particular disaster. You wait. You steel yourself. When they do reply, you tell yourself, you will not look desperate and check the message immediately. You, too, know how to swipe down and read the message without deactivating the 1. Let them wait for 6 hours, wondering what you’re doing and why you haven’t replied!

Six hours later, they reply. You hear the familiar KaTalk! chirp. Followed immediately by a second. You check your phone, swipe down your notifications to read the message, and see this:

Crush person
(emoticon name)

Instead of putting their emoticon on the same line as their message, your crush has used the ninja move of following their message with a quick emoticon follow-up. This makes it impossible to read the message without getting rid of the 1. The Kakao Talk chat screen is no more informative than the notification screen, and not only can you not read the message, you may have no idea if the emoticon they’ve sent you is Muzi and Con embracing, or Frodo as Burberry Man.

frodo muzi

You are now faced with the miserable choice of waiting, not knowing what message your crush has sent you, or looking (“Sorry I was busy ㅠㅠ. I’m fine, thanks, and you?”), and, by doing so, making it clear that you are the desperate one.

Advanced Kakao Paranoia tip #2: To prevent the other person from being able to read your message without deactivating the 1, follow your first message with a quick emoticon. Don’t overuse it, though, or it starts to look as deliberate as it is. Alternatively, a short, non-informative follow-up message like “ㅋㅋㅋ” or “ㅠㅠ” accomplishes the same goal.

The ultimate Kakao paranoia weapon

Is there no way to defeat the quick emoticon follow-up? Actually, there is. Ladies and gentlemen, there is (as they say) an app for that. Actually, there are several. They all do more or less the same thing: they intercept the notifications and save them to another place, where you can safely read all the messages without deactivating the 1.

There are at least two specifically for Kakao: KakaoTalk Notification+ and KaTalk Preview. Unfortunately, for some reason they aren’t compatible with my phone, so I’ve been using a third, more general one called Shinobi, which seems to work OK.

Advanced KakaoTalk Paranoia Tip #3: Use an app to intercept the notifications. Never feel compelled to deactivate the 1 again!

Alternatively just live your life, answer when you have time, and don’t worry about how it looks to the other person. If you are one of these people and can live that way, you have my admiration and envy. But for those of us for whom life can never be so simple, I hope these tips will help.


Left unanswered in my original post was the important question – what exactly is “the vaguely racist squirrel thing with an Afro”? Recently, KakaoTalk’s English twitter offered to answer questions:

…and I couldn’t help myself:

Some other people got in on it.

We got an answer!

So there you have it. Jay-G is a mole. Kudos to whoever runs the KakaoTalk English twitter for a classy answer.

Waegukin wrote these 1264 words on December 26th, 2014 | Posted in Living |


31 comments on “Advanced KakaoTalk paranoia tips”

  1. J. says:

    I guess the game of pretending is universal.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How to know if kakao friends is online

  3. Waegukin says:

    I don’t even know what that means in the context of a mobile message service.

  4. Shannon says:

    is there a way to tell if a phone call not answered was even noticed by the recipient? I noticed that there’s a little number 1 next to a call I made that didn’t go through. also, are there places in korea where one can’t receive texts or calls?

  5. Waegukin says:

    Yes; you just answered your own question; and yes.

    For everyone else: don’t bother asking questions about how to use Kakao Talk here. I’m not gonna answer any more of them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Does the other person know when you leave a conversation ?

  7. Nari says:

    Hey, I’m new to kakotalk. I was wondering how would you know if someone is online on kakotalk?

  8. Johnny says:

    just a question, there is this really annoying person that i dont want to talk to but they keep msging me everyday. But i REALLY hate having the red notification number on my app, so i have a question, if i leave the chatroom without clicking into the chat room (its a 1 on 1 chatroom), will it say that i left the chat and does it still leave the one on there? (i cant block because its idk if it says block to them.)

  9. Johnny says:

    just a question, there is this really annoying person that i dont want to talk to but they keep msging me everyday. But i REALLY hate having the red notification number on my app, so i have a question, if i leave the chatroom without clicking into the chat room (its a 1 on 1 chatroom), will it say that i left the chat and does it still leave the one on there? (i cant block because its idk if it says block to them.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    How can I reply someone that just have message me.. I click the white line below of the conversation but it didnt show up my keyboard. Actually the white thingy that I was talking about is that there was no send icon, there was nothing.. please help. I really need to reply to this person that send me a message. I just added that person as my first friend in kakaotalk. How can I reply to her message to me.. pleassssss help me

  11. Rick says:

    I would like to know what happen, I sent a message but there was no time hack on my phone later when I looked at the message it was red so I resent it. It was not until I turn mobile data off and on did it go out than it was the current time not the time I had first sent it out, any ideas what happen?

  12. Jo says:

    Hi, i was wondering i uninstalled the kakao app just in order to get some work done and avoid starring at the 1 for too long so i was wondering when you unistall the app when you reinstall will conversations of other people who sent me messages while i was uninstalled appear again once i reinstalled ?

  13. Minie says:

    Hi, I’m wondering if it’s possible that I retrieve the message I’ve sent. For example, I sent a message, but for some reason I don’t the one who’s chatting with me to see this message. He hasn’t read the message yet, and if I delete it, will he still see the message or not?

  14. Jonny says:

    Leaving the 1 after having seen the kakao snippet notification is not “rude”. It is a great way to test that person’s stalkerish, psycho tendencies.

  15. pejman foroohi says:

    Hi dear , my messages is not sent to my firend , about one week i trying to sent message but it is not delivered , can you tell me why ?
    Best regards

  16. roan says:

    I want to ask my kakao is installed in windows after updating the kakao software installed in my computer I try to log in and view my messages but it says kakao is stop working and the windows will shut it down, anyone who knows what the problem is?

  17. Jay says:

    Is there a notification if you screenshot a message

  18. Lindasey says:

    If i deleted my conversation, will the other persons conversation deleted?

  19. Ieda says:

    Wow… such a complicated world of texting… ignoring..playing safe… stay cool and so on.. hahaha.. well observed anyway! ^^

  20. RubiBronson says:

    the ULTIMATE way to secretly read messages: switch your phone to airplane mode before you open the message! that way even if the “follow up emoji”- technique is used they won’t know you read the message!

  21. RubyT says:

    I sent a message to a friend and he replied back. The message that I sent, the “1” remains. What does that mean?

  22. xAkemi says:

    I love this article ㅋㅋㅋ

  23. skyline01 says:

    When I mark as read in KAKAO PC (even without clicking to view the message), does the ‘1’ notification remains for the opposite? I just want to get rid of the red dot(message from xyz) on my chat list. Please advise.

  24. Aiden says:

    What if you sent a message to a friend and a few days passed; there is still a 1, buuut that person updated their profile and picture and still hasn’t replied to your message ;-;

  25. Sara says:

    I’m new to kakaotalk .. how i change my gender in kakaotalk ?

  26. Mik2 says:

    How would i know if kako friend is online or not?

  27. Janmae says:

    Is there a way to retrieved deleted contact?

  28. Kal says:

    Do you like KakaoTalk?

  29. arvie says:

    is it possible that number 1. is expiring and disappearing after an hours? even though they not seeing my message yet?

  30. Dam says:

    How can I know that my friends who have read my messages and who have not read in a group chat?


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