The Makings of BT21’s Global Success: Brand Merchandise

The Korean wave, or popularly known as Hallyu, is continuously conquering the world through KPOP, K-dramas and even K-beauty industries. A lot of businesses and brands wanted Hallyu to take part in their products or services as they have huge reach of audiences from different countries. And the current biggest influencer of Hallyu is BTS.

In case you are living under a rock, BTS or Bangtan Seonyeondan is a 7-member KPOP boy group that gained worldwide success when they won Top Social Artist at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. Since then, they broke records, sold out stadium concerts, gained countless international awards, and continued to be recognized as one of the most influential artists in the world. Naturally, huge businesses started lining up to sign them into collaborations with their brands.

TIME Magazine BTS Cover

The presence of BTS in the world of business goes beyond the music. Various merchandise are created to make use of their influence. Aside from albums, there are also clothing, shoes, food, beverages, mobile games, accessories, gadgets that represents BTS’ brand. But the most notable would be their animated personas or characters, which is BT21.

About BT21

LINE FRIENDS Corporation is a Korean company that works on animated games and movies. It aims to tell stories and reconcile animated merchandising and IT. As they continue to expand, they would want to work with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) in the future. They were first known for their sticker characters, BROWN and FRIENDS that can be used in LINE messenger, under NAVER Corporation. But as they keep up with innovation, they came out as a global creative studio that is based on their extensive range of IP or Intellectual Property. And that is why they started their FRIENDS CREATORS Project.

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FRIENDS CREATORS is a project that is attached to the keywords of LINE FRIENDS: Global, Millennials and Trending. The first artist to join in this undertaking is BTS. Clearly, they embody the purpose and image of this project as they are at the top of the world’s high popularity ranking and influence right now. And as artists, they tell stories of encouragement and empowerment through their lyrics and music.

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With this, LINE FRIENDS CREATORS came up with BT21, which includes eight unique characters that personifies each BTS member, and their loyal following, ARMY. BTS member Suga inspired this name when he commented that the BT21 characters would represent both BTS and the 21st century. Each character has their own personality and interesting backstory that led to the creation of UNIVERSTAR BT21, a fictional world where BT21 exists. Want to know more? Get to know each of the characters here:


VAN is a space robot that represents BTS’ loyal fans, ARMYs. He seems to know everything about the world, so he naturally guards and protects BT21. He is created by LINE FRIENDS’ designers, which is not the case for the other BT21 characters.

(Created by BTS member Kim Taehyung or V)

The story of UNIVERSTAR BT21 starts with TATA. He is an alien and the prince of planet BT, with amazing superpowers. As he is in a mission to spread love all over the galaxy, he summoned the space robot VAN to explore it. And when he came across Earth, he was inspired how the KPOP boy group, BTS, spread love through music that gained them millions of fans worldwide. So he decided to create his own KPOP band. He then searched the world to find like-minded hopefuls to fulfill this dream. And that was how BT21 was created.

(Created by BTS member Kim Namjoon or RM)

KOYA is a blue koala and BT21’s smartest member. He loves to sleep and think all the time. RM drew KOYA with the thought of cute koalas.

(Created by BTS member Kim Seokjin or Jin)

RJ is inspired by the image of an alpaca. He has a warm personality, almost the same as a mother’s warmth. He both loves cooking and eating, whatever comes first. Even though he has a lot of fur, he gets cold easily, so he wears a parka.

(Created by BTS member Min Yoongi or Suga)

Shooky is a magic cookie and the prankster of BT21. He hates milk the most. Suga drew Shooky with the image of his dog, Holly, in mind.

(Created by BTS member Jung Hoseok or J-hope)

MANG is inspired by a pony. He is the best dancer in BT21, and he’s the coolest when he grooves to any music. He always wears a mask which is a great mystery to his original identity.

(Created by BTS member Park Jimin)

CHIMMY is a puppy that according to Jimin, is what represents the whole personality of BTS. He wears a yellow hoodie that shows his passion for everything he does. Jimin also mentioned that CHIMMY’s chubby chicks reminded him of his image when they debuted, like a mochi.

(Created by BTS member Jung Jungkook)

COOKY is a rabbit who loves exercising. He is very active and aims to gain more muscles and be strong. Jungkook wanted to create a character that breaks the stereotypes of men having angel-like image, and wants to have manly features instead.

BT21 character stickers was officially launched on LINE in October 2017 and instantly achieved 8 million downloads. The brand’s initial purpose was not to create fan goods as BTS already have their own merchandise. But with this project, they are pursuing to create character products that could also cater ordinary people. And later on would find out that there’s an inspiration behind BT21, which is BTS.

The global success of BT21 created more opportunities for both LINE FRIENDS and BTS. Huge brands in South Korea, their home country, saw the potential and teamed up with BT21. Both Korean and international ARMYs are widely known for their support for BTS through merchandise. So they wouldn’t miss even the exclusive merch releases of South Korean brands that bears the image of BT21 characters.

BT21 Collaborations Exclusive and Limited to South Korea

For ARMYs, BTS merchandise is as important as BTS music. They take pride in owning goods and items with BTS on it, which is also the same for BT21. More so, if the merchandise are limited to only a number of ARMYs. Here are some examples of BT21 collaborations merchandise that is exclusively released in South Korea:

Dunkin Donuts

Photo credits to

Photo credits to

The collaboration was announced in February 2018. A number of their donuts and beverages portray the images of BT21 characters. There are also reusable merchandise that features each individual.

Olive Young

Photo credits to

Photo credits to

Olive Young x BT21 merchandise would make you want to buy a ticket to South Korea and grab all of these items in-stores. The BT21 designs featured in their products are all so pretty. Hand creams, travel kits, cleansing bands, makeup puff kits, hand sanitizer gels and perfume body mists are just some of their products that featured BT21 characters.


Photo credits to

Photo credits to

MONOPOLY is a stationary brand in Korea. They released cute products and BT21-designed travel kits, lanyards, notebooks, pens, organizers, leather sticker, and more. Not only that, you can also buy these limited eco bags from them!


Photo credits to CU Convenience Store

If you’ve been to South Korea, you would know how important T-money is. It is a rechargeable smart card used in transportation, like bus or subway, while going around Seoul. In 2017, they collaborated with BTS. Back then, they used real pictures of the members. But in 2018, they released a collection with BT21 characters on it. You can use and buy them only in South Korea, in convenience stores like CU and 7-eleven.

There is more that you can add to the list like Baskin Robbins, Mediheal, VT Cosmetics, True Nature, and many more. And all of their limited merch releases can only be bought in South Korea. If you are an international ARMY, it is kinda a problem on how to get a hold of those items. But here’s a simple guide for you:

How To Get These Exclusive BT21 Merchandise?

First of all, the LINE FRIENDS’ main flagship stores can be found in South Korea. There is one in Itaewon, Myeongdeong, and the currently largest branch can be found in Hongdae. Sure, there are also BT21 flagship stores in countries like USA and Japan, but according to ARMYs, the best and complete experience is in Seoul. Why? They have the biggest spaces. Also, the BT21 products are complete and fully stocked. All that you can rarely find in online stores and pop-up stores can be bought in these Seoul flagship stores.

LINE flagship store in Itaewon, SK,

LINE FRIENDS store Hongdae L7 branch, Photo from LINE FRIENDS

If you live outside Korea, your best choice in purchasing official BT21 goods are the Korean online stores. But for the BT21 brand collaborations, you only have a rare to zero chance of getting them. The good news is, there are now personal shopping, consolidating and worldwide shipping services that could help you with this dilemma. One of the best choices is DELIVERED KOREA ( They would guide you in buying from online Korean stores and they can also find limited edition merchandise for you.

Fortunately, in this day and age, the rise of convenient shopping services has allowed people to purchase anything they want from all over the world. Especially to international ARMYs, it is now cheaper and less stressful to get items that are once only exclusive to South Korea. So good luck and happy shopping!

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