Mana Studio wins 2021 Korea Culture Management Awards in webtoon

강진성 기자l승인2021.09.28l수정2021.09.28 10:33

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▲ Mana Studio / CEO Sungsool Gong

(PowerKorea) Webtoon comes from web and cartoon. Webtoon, especially on Naver and Kakao, in South Korea is a industry that has a huge potential as stories and characters are expanding to soap operas, movies, animation and even commercials. Smart phone also is playing part to spreading webtoon fast and wide as it makes reading easier on the go. 

A Korea Creative Content Agency report in 2020 says that the market in South Korea alone is estimated around 100 trillion won ($863 billion). Seeing the great potential, KOTRA and the Korea Manhwa Contents Agency has rolled up sleeves to promote Korean webtoon overseas through online platforms. It is encouraging the Korean webtoon started to surpass the sales of Japanese manga in the US, Europe and South East Asia. Also notable is that webtoon made and distributed by Naver and Kakao in Japan tops number 1 and 2. 

You might be surprised to know that the popular Korean dramas and movies such as Itaewon Class, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, Misaeng and Cheese In The Trap are based on webtoon. The webtoon’s ownership of other contents is well over 50% and the percentage only seems to go higher backed up by the fast growing OTT market. According to a Naver report, average salary of top 359 wetboonists in South Korea is 310 million won ($267,841) and 221 (62%) out of all webtoonists in the nation earn more than 100 million won a year. 

Sungsool Gong, CEO of Mana Studio, stepped in the world of webtoon as a pupil of Seheon Lee in 1985 and trained for 11 years. He released his first official work Fighter’s Morning in 1996 and has created many works including City Conquest, Choi Heung Jeong the Obang, May People and Duke Girl Boxer which have been sold more than 10 million copies so far. 

After working in Seoul and Gyeonggi for 25 years, he went to his hometown city Gwangju in 2011 and opened Mana Studio in 2018 in an effort to promote webtoon in the region. He has been actively engaged in fostering promising future webtoonists through lectures and training courses. 

“I thought it was important to find and foster talented future webtoonists as the market is getting bigger and many young people want to build their career in the field. I found Gwangju is relatively left behind of the trend despite it is a metropolitan city. So I want to make some contributions” says Gong.

Many webtoons created at Mana Studio generate from 100 million won to 1 billion won a year not only in Korea but also in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and North America which prove capability of Gong and outstanding talent of Korean webtoonists. Headquartered in Gwangju, Gong is working on opening branches in nearby cities including Mokpo, Yeosu, Naju, Suncheon, Jeongju and Namwon at the moment.

“I strongly believe that globally recognized webtoonists will come from Mana Studio one day. I see their potentials and I’m determined to provide unsparing support alongside years of my knowledge and experience in the field.”

It is regretful though that support from the city is not that helpful when compared to other cities that provide free working spaces except electric bills. Webtoonists can pour their creative energy without worrying about maintenance fee, points out Gong.

Apart from Mana Studio, Gong is working on Korean manhwa cafes, manhwa land and manhwa hotel alongside making characters into stationary and other accessories. He is also planning to provide free spaces for talented webtoonists in the future and he says everybody will be welcome as long as they have passion and creative mind. 

In recognition of his contribution to the industry and regional development, Gong received the 2021 Korea Future Management Awards in the webtoon category.

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강진성 기자  wlstjdxp@naver.com
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