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Webtoons (Hangul: 웹툰) are a type of digital comic that originated in South Korea. While webtoons were mostly unknown outside of the country during their inception, there has been a surge in popularity internationally thanks in great part to most manhwa being read on smartphones.

As digital manhwa have emerged as a popular medium, print publication of manhwa in South Korea has decreased. The amount of material published in webtoon form has now reached an equal amount as that published offline.[1]


There are three things that set webtoons apart from regular comics: each episode is published on one long, vertical strip (making use of an infinite canvas rather than multiple pages so that it is easier to read on a smartphone or computer); they will most likely be in color rather than black-and-white since they are rarely published in physical form; and some will feature music and animations that play during each chapter. In the case of South Korea, there are also different censorship laws for materials published online than in print which has led to more manhwa that is pornographic in nature being produced and published as webtoons.[citation needed]

Payment model[edit]

Like other online publications, there are a variety of payment models used for webtoons. Some offer a limited set of chapters for free and charge for the rest. Others allow only a certain number of chapters to be read per day without payment.[citation needed]

Revenue model[edit]

Creators of webtoons can earn money from ads displayed on their series. Until 2019, amateur creators could earn money from the credit that was given by their fans. The money that the pro and amateur creators receive depends on the page view..[2]

Origins and history[edit]

The Korean web portal Daum created a webtoon service known as Daum Webtoon in 2003 and was later followed by Naver with the launch of Naver Webtoon in 2004.[3] These services regularly release webtoons that are available for free. According to David Welsh of Bloomberg, comics account for a quarter of all book sales in South Korea, while more than 3 million Korean users paid to access online manhwa and 10 million users read free webtoons.[4]

As of July 2014, Naver had published 520 webtoons while Daum had published 434. Since the early 2010s, services such as TappyToon and Spottoon have begun to officially translate webtoons into English while some Korean publishers like Lezhin and Toomics have begun to self translate their works.[5][6] Examples of popular webtoons that have been translated into English are Lookism, Untouchable, Yumi's Cells, The Sound of Heart, Tales of the Unusual, The Gamer, The God of High School, Girls of the Wild's, Noblesse, and Tower of God. In recent years, these webtoons have been gaining popularity in Western markets, rivalling Japanese manga.[7]

In the past, it was divided into two ratings: All (webtoon suitable for all ages) and 18 (No one under 18 is allowed to read this webtoon). From May 2019, the webtoon rating system was implemented. It is said that 10 platforms including Naver and Daum will participate. The ratings are expected to be △ All △ 12 years or older △ 15 years or older △ 19 years old (18 years old) or older.[8]

Generation Zero[edit]

Layout of an early webtoon. Buttons allow turning the page.

The earliest webtoons were scanned original comics uploaded onto the Internet, usually formatted on a one-page layout.[citation needed]

First generation[edit]

With the development of technology, authors were able to utilise flash animation effects.

Second generation[edit]

An example of a second generation webtoon.

Enhanced preloading enabled later authors to adopt a vertical layout with scrolling. In contrast to comics with a dense panel composition, scrolling brings new panels into view. This makes webtoons suitable for gradual and continuous representation, allowing webtoon reading to become more fluid.[9]

Third generation[edit]

A scene from the webtoon Tower of God, a third-generation webtoon

With the advent of the smartphone and tablet, webtoons have also migrated to new platforms such as apps. There have also been sounds introduced to imply further expressions and tones, as well as interactive motions to create excitement and bring attention to certain objects for the viewers.[10]

Prior to 2014, most webtoons were only available in English through unofficial fan translations. In July 2014, Naver subsidiary Line began publication of translations of popular webtoons to English via the WEBTOON service.[11][12]


The market for webtoons and their derivatives is currently valued at around KR₩420 billion (US$368 million).[13]

Although digital comics are increasingly popular, print publication remains the primary means of comic retail. Some publishers offer online content and print content simultaneously.[14]

Webtoons have been taken as source material by a number of different mediums, including film and television; one of the earliest examples of this was 'Tazza, a 2006 film based on the comic by Huh Young-man. This work was serialized in the Sports Chosun and garnered over 100 million homepage views, later being adapted into two films. (Tazza: The High Rollers, Tazza: The Hidden Card), and one television series (Tazza (TV series)). Another of Huh's works, Sikgaek (Le Grand Chef), was published in the Dong-a Ilbo for five years and sold 540,000 copies in paperback version.

Naver's WEBTOON service, launched in 2014, is now the biggest webtoon platform in Korea. According to Naver, it reaches over 6.2 million daily users. The free WEBTOON translation service has allowed webtoons to form part of the global Korean Wave.[15]

They also collaborate with movies.[16]

Outside of South Korea[edit]

The webtoon format has also expanded to other countries with many different distributors offering original and translated webtoons for users to read as well as offering platforms for anyone to upload their own webtoons.

Mainland China and Taiwan[edit]

In mainland China and Taiwan, webtoons along with web manhua have seen an increase in production and popularity since they are rarely published and just like in South Korea, have resulted in a resurgence and interest in the manhua industry as more content is consumed digitally. Almost all of the big webtoon portals in China are offered by the big internet companies in the country while in Taiwan the bigger webtoon publishers outside of the country like Comico, Toomics, and WEBTOON are more popular since their services are available there.[17]


Webtoons in Japan have not caught on as well as in other countries mainly due to the traditional manga industry still being the main way in which manga gets released and published. Even web manga, which have seen a recent rise in popularity, get released in black-and-white and not color like in Korea or China despite being released digitally.[18] Despite this, there have been some strides to penetrate the Japanese market and slowly more mangaka are trying out the webtoon format to release their titles.[19] Lezhin, Comico, Naver, Line, and Kakao offer webtoon portals with translated works for Japanese readers. Comico, one of the biggest webtoon publishers in the world, was actually created by the Japanese subsidiary of NHN Entertainment, NHN Japan. To date, there are only two webtoon portals that offer original Japanese webtoons, Comico and Naver (under the name XOY 2017-2018 to 2019). All XOY webtoons have been integrated onto Line Manga a Japanese Manga service while XOY was up until its demise in January 2019.[20] Kakao has also had success in the Japanese market by offering both licensed manga and translated Korean webtoons with their service, Piccoma. This has been credited to the webtoon pay model that the service implements where some chapters are offered for free for a short period of time.[21] Kakao Japan has announced that it will start offering original Japanese, Korean, and Chinese webtoons for Piccoma in the summer of 2018.[22]


In India, webtoons have grown in popularity in the country.[23] Kross Komics was launched in the country as the first webtoon portal in 2020 offering translated titles in English and Hindi.[23] Upon its release, it was downloaded 200,000 times.[23]

Southeast Asia[edit]

Indonesia and Thailand have become big markets for the webtoon industry with both Naver (under WEBTOON) and Comico offering both original webtoons and fully translated titles in the two countries. Some webtoons made in Indonesia and Thailand have even been translated and published outside of the countries like Teen Mom and Eggnoid. Vietnam launched its first webtoon portal, Vinatoon, offering translated titles from Daum Webtoon and Mr. Blue with the intention of opening up another market.[24]

Western countries[edit]

Many of the webtoon publishers have had success in penetrating markets outside of Asia with the biggest success being the United States and other English speaking countries.[25][26] Lezhin, Toomics, and Naver are the only big publishers who translate their own titles rather than licensing them out and Naver (under the Line brand) even offers the ability for fan translations to be offered in different languages. Spottoon and TappyToon offer translated licensed works from various publishers including KToon, Bomtoon, Foxtoon, and many more. Besides just the consumption of translated works, there has also been a rise in the creation of original non-Asian webtoons thanks in part to sites like Tapas and WEBTOON offering the ability for anyone to submit their own work.[27] In the beginning, many of the webtoons created outside of Asia tended to just be webcomics released in the webtoon format but over time, more artists have released more titles that are full-fledged comics rather than reformatted webcomics.

Delitoon is another platform only for French people based in France, providing translated licensed works mainly from Korean content providers.

Adaptations of webtoons[edit]

Medium Titles
Film APT (아파트) (2006)

Dasepo Naughty Girls (다세포 소녀) (2006)

Tazza: The High Rollers (타짜) (2006)

Le Grand Chef (식객) (2007)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화) (2008)

BA:BO (바보) (2008)

Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle (식객 2: 김치 전쟁) (2010)

Moss (이끼) (2010)

Pained (통증) (2011)

Late Blossom (그대를 사랑합니다) (2011)

The Neighbor (이웃사람) (2012)

26 Years (26년) (2012)

The Five (더 파이브) (2013)

Fists of Legend (전설의 주먹) (2013)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) (2013)

Fashion King (패션왕) (2014)

Tazza: The Hidden Card (타짜: 신의 손) (2014)

Inside Men (내부자들) (2015)

ReLIFE (リライフ) (2017)

The Chase (반드시 잡는다) (2017)

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (신과 함께-죄와 벌) (2017)

Steel Rain (강철비) (2017)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈 인더 트랩) (2018)

Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days (신과 함께-인과 연) (2018)

Eggnoid (2019)

Television The Great Catsby (위대한 개츠비) (2007)

Gourmet (식객) (2008)

Mary Stayed Out All Night (매리는 외박중) (2010)

Aridong's Last Cowboy (아리동 라스트 카우보이) (2010)

Always Low Prices Cheollima Mart (쌉니다 천리마 마트) (2010)

Bridal Mask (각시탈) (2012)

Dr. Frost (닥터 프로스트) (2014)

Misaeng (미생) (2014)

A Girl Who Sees Smells (냄새를 보는 소녀) (2015)

Orange Marmalade (오렌지 마말레이드) (2015)

Songgot: The Piercer (송곳) (2015)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈인더트랩) (2016)

Lucky Romance (운빨로맨스) (2016)

Hey Ghost, Let's Fight (싸우자 귀신아) (2016)

The Man Living in Our House (우리집에 사는 남자) (2016)

The Sound of Your Heart (마음의 소리) (2017)

Save Me (구해줘) (2017)

What's Wrong with Secretary Kim (김비서가 왜 그럴까) (2018)

Gangnam Beauty (내 아이디는 강남미인) (2018)

Your House Helper (당신의 하우스헬퍼) (2018)

The Sound of Your Heart - Reboot (마음의 소리: Reboot) (2018)

Tale of Fairy (계룡선녀전) (2018)

Her Private Life (누나팬닷컴) (2019)

Love Alarm (좋아하면 울리는) (2019)

Hell Is Other People (타인은 지옥이다) (2019)

Pegasus Market (쌉니다 천리마마트) (2019)

Extraordinary You (어쩌다 발견한 하루) (2019)

The Tale of Nokdu (조선로코 녹두전) (2019)

Itaewon Class (이태원 클라쓰) (2020)

Memorist (메모리스트) (2020)

Welcome (어서와) (2020)

Rugal (루갈) (2020)

Mystic Pop-up Bar (쌍갑포차) (2020)

Backstreet Rookie (편의점샛별이) (2020)

Marry Me! (マリーミー!) (2020)

Sweet Home (스위트홈) (2021)

All of Us Are Dead (지금 우리 학교는) (2021)

Game Berkanix (베르카닉스) (2009)

Tower of God (신의 탑) (2013)

The God of High School (갓 오브 하이스쿨) (2015)

The Sound of Heart (마음의소리) (2016)

Denma with NAVER WEBTOON (덴마) (2016)

Noblesse with NAVER WEBTOON (노블레스) (2017)

Densinma with NAVER WEBTOON (덴마+신도림+마왕이 되는 중2야) (2019)

Gaus Electronics with NAVER WEBTOON (가우스전자) (2019)

Animated series Welcome to Convenience Store (와라! 편의점) (2012)

Story of Miho (미호이야기)

A Simple Thinking About Blood Type (혈액형에 관한 간단한 고찰) (2013)

Notjima Jeongshinjul (놓지마 정신줄) (2014)

Noblesse (노블레스: 파멸의 시작) (2015)

Noblesse: Awakening (노블레스: Awakening) (2016)

ReLIFE (リライフ) (2016)

Nanbaka (ナンバカ) (2016)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie (ネト充のススメ) (2017)

How to Keep a Mummy (ミイラの飼い方) (2018)

Tales of the Unusual (기기괴괴) (2019)

The God of High School (2020)

Tower of God (2020)

Noblesse (2020)

Theatre The Great Catsby (위대한 개츠비) (2007)

BA:BO (바보)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화)

Brand/ Merchandise Marine Blues (마린블루스)

Welcome to Convenience Store (와라! 편의점)

The Sock Monster (양말 도깨비)

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (어제, 오늘 그리고 내일)

ONA Momokuri (ももくり) (2015)

The Sound of Heart (마음의 소리) (2018)

My Giant Nerd Boyfriend [28] (2019)

Let's Play [29] (2019)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Noh, Sueen. ""To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question": What Is Happening with Korean manga, (Manhwa), Today?" International Journal of manga Art (IJOCA) 9.2 (2007): n. pag. International Journal of manga Art (IJOCA). John A. Lent, Sept. 2007. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
  2. ^ "Creators 101 :: MAKE MONEY". www.webtoons.com. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  3. ^ Herald, The Korea (2014-05-25). "Korean webtoons going global". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  4. ^ Welsh, David. "Forget Manga. Here's Manhwa". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  5. ^ Lee, Jun-Youb (2015-04-03). "Startup Battles Naver in English Webtoons". The Wall Street Journal.
  6. ^ 박형기 (November 18, 2015). "Rolling Story takes Korean webtoons to global audience". koreaherald.com. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  7. ^ "[다시 도전이다] 미생·스틸레인 웹툰작가들, 美·中 독자도 웃고 울린다". Wow TV. 2015-01-01.
  8. ^ "웹툰 속 '극단적 선택' 표현…네이버·다음 등 '웹툰 등급제' 시행 예정". Segyeilbo. 2019-05-14.
  9. ^ Han, Chang-wan (2012-06-30). 애니메이션 연구6(Animation studies6). 한국 애니메이션 학회(Korean cartoon and animation studies). pp. 124–139.
  10. ^ Jang, Wonho; Song, Jung Eun (2017-08-31). "Webtoon as a New Korean Wave in the Process of Glocalization". Kritika Kultura (29). doi:10.13185/kk2017.02908. ISSN 2094-6937.
  11. ^ "Popular Mobile Webcomic Service, WEBTOON, Debuts in the United States and Worldwide". PRNewswire. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Korea's webtoon market experiences exponential growth over past 10 years". Arirang News. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  13. ^ "South Korean 'webtoon' craze makes global waves | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  14. ^ Choi, yun cheol. "2009해외콘텐츠 시장조사(2009 abroad contents market research)". www.kocca.kr. 한국콘텐츠진흥원(Korea creative contents agency).
  15. ^ Song, Jung-Eun; Nahm, Kee-Bom; Jang, Won-Ho (2014). "The Impact of Spread of Webtoon on the Development of Hallyu: The Case Study of Indonesia". 한국엔터테인먼트산업학회논문지. 8 (2): 357–367. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  16. ^ "영화를 웹툰으로 미리 본다? 영화X웹툰 콜라보의 세계". Cineplay. 2017-08-14.
  17. ^ https://www.bnext.com.tw/article/48619/how-line-webtoon-and-comico-to-do-ip-taiwan-comic-book
  18. ^ https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/02/business/manga-goes-digital-via-smartphone-apps-paper-comics-still-place/#.WuTsT4jwY2w
  19. ^ http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/08/134_235729.html
  20. ^ https://linecorp.com/en/pr/news/en/2018/2328
  21. ^ https://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineramirez/2018/01/16/kakao-will-use-wildly-popular-south-korean-webtoons-to-build-an-audience-in-japan-china/#306fd2c049c6
  22. ^ https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Kakao-Japan-ramps-up-manga-content-via-smartphone-app
  23. ^ a b c Shete, Yugandhara (February 3, 2020). "India's first comic app, Kross Komics gets 200k downloads in just six weeks". Animation Xpress.
  24. ^ https://finance.yahoo.com/news/launching-first-digital-cartoon-vietnam-040000378.html
  25. ^ http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/search1/2603000000.html?cid=AEN20170711010700315
  26. ^ http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/search1/2603000000.html?cid=AEN20180409004800320
  27. ^ https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/22/tapas-media/
  28. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkXjEfXqRZg&list=PLhk8LovViFguO2XI-P3x9qxuW9gTqvBS0
  29. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs77j5v7lx8&list=PLhk8LovViFgvhXcmE1OVMQ7kJi63vmdSf

External links[edit]