Korean pop culture – Webcomics or Webtoons

With the widespread internet network in South Korea, it comes as no surprise that Koreans like to read comics or cartoons distributed through internet portals like Naver and Daum, which are known as webcomics or webtoons. A survey shows that about one in three Koreans are regular readers of webtoons.

Webtoons began as short internet comics in late 1990s and started to boom since 2003 when major portal sites like Daum and Naver started providing webtoon portal services. Webtoons have also developed into stories of diverse genres with more serious and large-scale plots which increased their attractiveness to the readers.  The readers are also able to communicate with the webtoon artists by posting comments.

As of May 2014, Naver published about 128 weekly webtoons and Daum provided about 85 official webtoons. Every day over 6.2 million users visited Naver webtoons through their PCs and this figure does not include those accessed through mobile devices and other platforms.

The growing popularity of webtoons has led to the trend of adapting popular ones for movies and TV dramas and the production of character products.  For example, the hit movie, “Secretly Greatly” (은밀하게 위대하게), about three young and handsome North Korean spies living in South Korea is adapted from a popular spy webtoon of the same title.  The recent popular TV drama, 미생 (“Misaeng” – Incomplete Life), about the lives and struggles of office workers is also adapted from a popular webtoon of the same title.  There are products like dolls and stationery of the characters of the webtoon, Socks Ghost (양말도깨비).

You can access the trailer of the movie “Secretly Greatly”, the preview of one of the episodes of “Misaeng” and the two webtoons by clicking the links below:

“Secretly Greatly” movie trailer

“Secretly Greatly” webtoon

“Misaeng” episode 16 preview

“Misaeng” webtoon

You can view the character products of “Socks Ghost” and the “Socks Ghost” webtoon by clicking the following links:

Socks Ghost” character products

“Socks Ghost” webtoon

The success of the adapted movies and dramas in turn helps attract more attention to the webtoon market.  For example, following the success of the TV drama, “Misaeng”, there was an increase of webtoon readers in their mid 30’s and 40’s and women readers whereas previously readers were mostly young men.

You can read the webtoons currently available on the Naver and Daum portal sites by clicking the links provided under the “References” section below.

Althhough currently most of the Korean webtoons are available in Korean only, as both Daum and Naver plan to launch webtoons overseas, it is expected to see the increase of officially translated Korean webtoons targeting at the international audience.  The KT Economic Research Institute predicted that the size of the webtoon industry would double to USD800 million by 2018.

Reminder: The next blog post will be published on 21 January 2015.  Watch this space!



Webtoons enjoying revival, following success of ‘Misaeng’ “, Arirang News, 2015-01-13

Korean webtoon market to  double in size by 2018: report“, Arirang News, 2015-01-09

Veronica Huh, “Daum Kakao to commercialize popular webtoon characters“, The Korea Bizwire, 2014-11-2

Park Ji-won, “Korea’s webtoon market experiences exponential growth over past 10 years“, Arirang News, 2014-08-14

Sohn Ji-young, “Korean webtoons going global“, The Korea Herald, 2014-05-26

Park Ji-won, “More and more webcomics finding their way onto the big screen“, Arirang News, 2013-06-27

Misaeng (TV Series), Wikipedia

Secretly Greatly, Wikipedia

Daum webtoon portal site

Naver webtoon portal site

27 thoughts on “Korean pop culture – Webcomics or Webtoons

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