The Globalization Processes of Korean Digital Comics
One of the most well-known Korean webtoonists, Tae-ho Yoon said, “Nobody knows what point we’re at in the history of webtoons right now, but I thought it was time to explore all the possibilities.” This was in 2014 when 15 Korean webtoon creators formed the cooperative group Toonion. Webtoons are still developing in keeping with global and technological conditions, but they have definitely made a significant impact on the Korean comics industry. Webtoons have also contributed to comics globalization, which was previously limited to Japanese manga and American comics.
Korean-style digital comics started in the late 1990s. The public gained access to personal web pages, all thanks to the development of information technologies. Cartoonists and illustrators distributed their character-based cartoon essays through personal web pages or blogs. They generated revenue through book publications and related merchandise.
Note: “Webtoon,” a combination of “web” and “cartoon,” was first used in the Korean comics industry in 2000. However, the term only gained widespread recognition in the country in the mid-2000s. Major Korean web portals competitively started free webtoon services in 2002, generating more traffic and gathering more active users.
Eventually, some successful webtoons were repackaged into television shows and movies. The original stories that webtoons provided the audience built fan bases. Filmmakers and producers optimized the colorful visuals, making webtoons a crucial part of the Korean entertainment industry.
Webtoons developed through time, establishing an industrial standard that the world now recognizes. They have gone through various changes over the decades, but they have unique characteristics recognized domestically and globally.
Webtoons are closely related to manhwa, which are made in Korea. Manhwa from South Korea is available to the public, including English-speaking readers. Now, webtoons are generally animated cartoons published on the Internet. Stories are told in long and vertical with panels arranged for continual scrolling. They are made for digital reading, so they are mostly in full color.
Technology played an essential role in the birth and growth of Korean-style digital comics, but what pushed it to reach a wider audience? Yes, webtoon translation. Apart from Naver and Kakao Webtoons, more platforms have helped readers find their way into their favorite titles. Daum Webtoon was the first webtoon company in the world and the innovator of the format. Tapas is the first webtoon company in the United States, with over 70,000 titles available to the public.
Webtoon Factory is a French company that launched in 2019, with titles available in French and English. with titles available in French and English. Webcomics is also one of the leading webtoon apps in North America. Webtoons have become very popular in other Asian countries, notably India, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia, through webtoon translations.
The Korean digital comics market has expanded, and it is highly likely to continue as more webtoons become more accessible to other countries. A single comics translator can do so much, including starting and continuing a digital comics revolution in Korea and the rest of the world.