Kimunji emoji take on Kimoji emoji

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Ben Gillin

Kim Kardashian’s chart-topping Kimoji web icons are facing new competition from a set of emojis mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The “Kimunji” series features Mr Kim and his father and grandfather, as well as missiles and atomic blasts.

US-based web designer Ben Gillin said his main aim in creating the Kimunji was to mock the “terrible” Kimoji, which he said were damaging to society.

But he told the BBC he also hoped it got people talking about North Korea.

“Kim Jong-un is obviously a terrible person, but in some respects what the Kimoji app is doing to society is also terrible,” he said.

‘Terrible content’

Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji app – which has more than 500 icons of her, her products and possessions as well as sketches of her more famous body parts, for people to use online – became the top-selling app on iTunes when it went on sale late last year.

Mr Gillin, who lives in Houston, Texas, told the BBC it “blew his mind”.

“The content is terrible – I imagine little kids using it. It’s ending up in their hands, advancing their minds in certain ways,” he said.

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Kimoji remains one of the top-selling apps on Apple’s iTunes.

He and his wife were laughing about how absurd it would be if Kim Jong-un did the same, he said. Then when an update to Kardashian’s app was released at the weekend and at the same time North Korea broke UN sanctions by launching a satellite on a ballistic missile, he spent four hours making up the Kimunji before posting them online for free use.

The icons are based on the “news or fears that we have” about North Korea, he said.

There is one showing Mr Kim crying – which is strikingly similar to one of the more popular Kimoji – and others of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, from whom Mr Kim inherited leadership of the repressive and secretive nuclear-armed country.

One of the icons shows US basketball player Dennis Rodman, a friend of Mr Kim’s who has controversially visited North Korea several times.

That, said Mr Gillin, was “just funny on its own”.

He said the Kimunji probably wouldn’t have been so widely shared online as they have if he’d drawn on some of the darker sides of North Korea, like its labour camps and starvation.

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Mr Gillin said it would be amusing if his emoji had irritated Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

“In no way do I want to downplay the human rights violations in North Korea – that’s super serious and oftentimes overlooked,” he said.

“But if my joke makes people look at it in a serious fashion, or look at it at all, then at least they’ve looked at it.”

He also said he wasn’t too concerned about angering Kim Jong-un, pointing out that the cast and crew behind The Interview – the satirical film about a plot to assassinate Mr Kim – were “still alive” despite North Korea’s furious reaction.

If Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West were angry, he said, “that’s more funny than it is scary”.

“But I don’t think they’ll let it detract from their business goals.”

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