Korean webtoon goes global

강승연 기자l승인2019.02.22






▲ Webtoonist Oh Young-suk

Webtoon is a new platform to enjoy comics
If people went to comic book stores in the past, people today read webtoon online or on their smartphone. Webtoon is a new word for web and cartoon. As the platform changed, the pages are scrolled down instead of turning over. 

Many cartoonists, or webtoonists if you like, are joining this new platform and Korea probably has the biggest webtoon market in the world thanks to its fast internet connections. Among many webtoonists, Oh Young-suk of Min Story is one of the leaders of the Korean webtoon market. 

Oh is most famous for his works <Tong> and <Dokgo>. He is one of the five Korean webtoonists and the president of the Cartoonist Solidarity of Busan & Gyeongnam District. Last year, he wowed many people, readers and webtoonists alike, as his works topped the chart at the Japanese webtoon platform ‘Piccoma’.

He used to be a thriller novelist during the late 90s and <Tong> was a side kick. Yet the side kick attracted more attention and he was offered a publication which unfortunately did not happen when the IMF hit Korea. He thought to himself what he could do and decided to carry on the work. “Looking back, I just feel thankful that I did not change my career” says Oh.

It is said that the concept ‘webtoon’ was first introduced in Korea. Oh started to spread his webtoons to the world with <Tong> and <Dokgo> at the French webtoon platform ‘Delitoon’ 2 years ago; a businessman in France saw a potential of this new comic platform and invited Oh as an honorary ambassador of webtoon. 

“I think the webtoon market is in the developing phase as there still are many people who prefer paper comics. So the market will be formed and getting bigger among the 20s” predicts Oh.

Systematic support is needed
The US and Japan saw the power of cultural contents earlier. So, the two governments have provided unsparing support to promote global-wise entertainment industry. Likewise, Korea needed the same support if we are to promote cultural contents including the fast rising webtoon fever at the moment. 

“The Busan Webtoon Festival is a good example of promoting the webtoon industry. It is also a good idea to introduce platforms where the businessmen and webtoonists come to know each other. I also became famous through this kind of connection.”

The illegal reproduction, however, came to problematic. ‘Bamtokki (Night Rabbit)’, for example, took 2 years to be shut down due to illegal reproduction of webtoons and the incomes of webtoonists reduced to 1/4 as a result. 

Oh points out ‘lack of regulations’ as to cause this 2 year long period to just close down this single illegal site. In fact, the deliberation of the Korea Communications Commission also takes too long during which the illegal reproduction are in full swing. Oh, in addition, pointed out lack of public awareness on using illegal sites and products. 

When asked for an advice or two for developing webtoonists, Oh tips a number of things to consider. Firstly, keep doing. Secondly, read a lot whether they are books or newspapers. Thirdly, start with your own story if you are a beginner. Lastly but not least, don’t read comments as it might hurt your feeling or affects your confidence. 

강승연 기자  cjsqh777@naver.com
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