K-Animation Series – A Brief History (1970’s)

In this blog post, we continue to trace the history of K-animation by having a look at the 1970’s in which the animation industry enjoyed a boom.

1970’s: Boom led by sci-fi animated films

After 1972, there was a severe decline in the K-animation industry which was adversely affected by mainly the competition from Japanese animation being broadcast on the TV and the conflicts between the production companies and directors. Until 1976, the K-animation industry was shut down with no original Korean animated works being produced.  1976 is the turning point because in this year, the sci-fi animated film, Robot Taekwon V (로보트 태권 V) , which was not only a blockbuster but also sparked the sci-fi animation boom, was released.  The film is about Robot Taekwon V which was created to fight off an army of robots created by an evil scientist who wanted to dominate the world.  You can get a glimpse of Robot Taekwon V and listen to the theme song by watching this video.

When Robot Taekwon V was created, the Japanese sci-fi anime, Mazinger Z, was popular in South Korea and there were talks about the similarity in appearance between Robot Taekwon V and Mazinger Z.  That said, in Robot Taekwon V, a number of Korean elements which distinguished it from the other Japanese robot-related anime were added.  For example, the inspiration of the head of Robot Taekwon V came from the well-known Korean general, Yi Sun-shin. Moreover, Robot Taekwon V was good at taekwondo, the Korean national sports, as its pilot was a taekwondo champion, and Korean traditional instruments (e.g., jing (gong) and ajaeng (Korean traditional seven-string instrument)) were used in making the sound effects.

The success of Robot Taekwon V led to a number of sequels for the film, and the creation of a number of sci-fi animated films during this period.  Moreover, Robot Taekwon V was the first K-animation which has tie-in products – its theme song was so popular that it was packaged with hits from other animated works in one album which also became popular.

Another leading animated sci-fi film during this period was also taekwondo-related –Taekwon dongja Maruchi Arachi (태권동자 마루치 아라치) released in 1977.  This film is about two taekwondo kids, Maruchi and Arachi, who fought against the evil forces. You can watch a short clip of this film by clicking this link.

After this sci-fi animation boom, the K-animation industry suffered a decline in the 1980’s but grew again in the 1990’s. Let’s explore such dramatic development in the next post. Watch this space!

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Korean Culture and Information Service, K-Animation: Befriending Children All Over the World, Republic of Korea, 2013


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