The 21st century saw the rise of many new things. Life has suddenly become fast-paced, and everything seems to move to the online platform. One source of entertainment that took the digital track this century is comics. Many countries are known for their comic strips, but The South Korean market is one of the fastest-growing ones. When these comics appeared on the internet, the term webtoon came into existence. Korean webtoons are a fad by themselves.
What are Korean Webtoons?
The first South Korean webtoon platform came to life in 2002. Daum Webtoons began as a side hustle along with Daum’s news service. Daum’s comic artist Kang Full aspired to create his work. After facing rejection from multiple publishes, it was finally Daum that accepted him and launched their webtoon platform. The first webtoon, “Love Story”, began its journey in 2003 and has today become an enigma in itself. A new industry was born, which is now worth 368 Million Dollars along with its derivatives.
In just one year of its run, “Love Story” gathered 25000 comments and a view count of 32 Million. This webtoon changed the way people were used to viewing comics. Till then, an online toon was simply scanning previously printed comics that people read. The new era of webtoons got background music, animation, easy scrolling, and weekly uploads to keep the users engaged. All these together synchronized with the consumers changing online behavior. With rising popularity, more webtoon portals came up. One of the portals to launch was Naver toons in the year 2004. Today Naver is one of the best sites to watch your favorite webtoon. Webtoon series such as “1001” and “The Great Catsby” rose to fame. Yang Young-soon is the creator of “1001″ while Kang Doha made “The Great Catsby”.
How webtoons became a massive revenue-generating market?
The rise in webtoon popularity saw famous artists Yoon Tae-ho come up with “Moss”; a thriller in 2008 on the Daum webtoons platform. Once this toon achieved overnight success, he gave the smashing hit “Inside man” and “Misaeng” in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The success of these webtoons propelled their adaptation into films and series. Cho Soek, who started with Naver, holds the record for a webtoon series that ran for 14 years straight. In the webtoon era, APT became the first movie based on a webtoon. Even “Love Story “and “Fool” got made into films in 2008.
With advancing technology, the webtoon world also progressed. Naver released their Webtoon App in 2009. The rising webtoon world rapidly undermined the physical comic book industry. However, a new way to generate revenue came to light. Webtoons were available for free initially. Endless chapters, entire episodes, and special-character reads were all available at no extra cost. With time, webtoon companies replaced the no-cost features with limited access and the “pay more to read more” strategy. 2011 saw the advent of paid viewing of webtoon content. In 2012 Naver Toons introduced the read more with money concept for its viewers.
Kakao and Webtoons
The biggest revolution came about in 2013 with Kakao Corporation launching Podotree. This venture became a dedicated space for webtoons, unlike other shared platforms. They even came up with the feature of “pay or wait” in 2014. It turned out as a success model and rapidly grew Kakao Corporation’s revenue. Other ways that webtoons got monetized were by getting into tie-ups with local organizations and marketing them.
A classic example of this was the association between the webtoon “First Sweet” and Haiti Confectionaries. The confectionery products reflected the emotions in the webtoon, and it became an instant hit. Once webtoons hit a record high, fans demanded collectibles, prints, and souvenirs. The dying print comic industry grew as an offshoot of the webtoon industry and penned some amazing webtoons in print. 2018 saw the maximum growth in the print-comic segment that was close to 1 billion dollars.
Globalization of Korean Webtoons
The next step to keep the ball of success rolling for Korean webtoons was to enter the global market. The first country Naver entered was Japan. Linguists got working, and webtoons could now speak French, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, and English. Others like NHN Comic, Kodansha Mega Poke, LINE Manga already had a presence in Japan, Picoma only began in Japan in 2016. The webtoon universe is adopting technology as well. LINE Webtoons uses an artificial intelligence-powered system that uses watched history on your computer to offer you the most recent webtoon sample.
Using free coupons, reminders for products advertised on a particular webtoon platform, and the use of big data; all are classic examples of modern-day technology making its way into your life via the webtoon universe. Another creative way that the Naver platform used in the USA was to allow budding artists to summit webtoons on Canvas. Depending upon the success of the particular webtoon, Naver would run it on their LINE webtoon platform.
Webtoon adaptations and the way forward
Because Korean webtoons became such a massive hit with fans demanding more, these webtoons got a second lease to life as series and movies. “Along came the Gods” and “The Inside Man” had a cinematic viewership of 12 million and 7.07 million, respectively. In Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Netflix ran the successful “Itaewon Class”. The movie that started it all was the adaptation of “Covertly Glorious”, which was the work of HUN.
Check out: 10 Korean Webtoons Everyone Must Read Once