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Webtoon (Hangul: 웹툰) is a term used to describe South Korean webcomics or manhwa that are published online. The Korean web portal Daum created a webtoon service in 2003, as did Naver in 2004.[1] 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 webcomics.[2]

As of July 2014, Naver had published 520 webtoons while Daum had published 434. Since the early 2010s, services such as Tapastic, Spottoon and Line Webtoon have begun to officially translate webtoons into English.[3][4] Examples of popular webtoons that have been translated into English are The Breaker, Girls of the Wild's, The Gamer, Noblesse, and Tower of God. In recent years, these webtoons have been gaining popularity in Western markets, rivalling Japanese manga.[5]

As digital comics have emerged as a popular medium, print publication of manhwa has decreased. The amount of material published in webtoon form has now reached an equal amount as that published offline.[6]


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

Generation zero[edit]

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

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.[7]

Third generation[edit]

With the advent of the smartphone and tablet, webtoons have also migrated to new platforms such as apps.

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 Line Webtoon service.[8][9]


The market for webtoons and their derivatives is currently valued at around KR₩420 billion (US$368 million).[10]

Although digital comics are increasingly popular, print publication remains the primary means of comic retail. Some publishers offer online content and print content simultaneously.[11]

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 Beat, a 1997 film based on the comic by Huh Young-man. Huh's later work, Tazza, was serialized in the Sports Chosun and garnered over 100 million homepage views, later being adapted into two films. Another of Huh's works, Le Grand Chef, was published in the Dong-a Ilbo for five years and sold 540,000 copies in paperback version.

Naver's Line 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 Line Webtoon translation service has allowed webtoons to form part of the global Korean Wave.[12]

Adaptations of webtoons[edit]

Medium Titles
Film APT (아파트) (2006)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화) (2008)

BA:BO (바보) (2008)

Moss (이끼) (2010)

Pained (통증) (2011)

Late Blossom (그대를 사랑합니다) (2011)

The Neighbor (이웃사람) (2012)

26 Years (26년) (2012)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) (2013)

Fashion King (패션왕) (2014)

Television 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)

Misaeng (미생) (2014)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈인더트랩) (2016)

Game Ragnarok Online (라그나로크 온라인) (2002)

Berkanix (베르카닉스) (2009)

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

Story of Miho (미호이야기)

Notjima Jeongshinjul (놓지마 정신줄) (2014)

Theatre The Great Catsby (위대한 개츠비) (2007)

BA:BO (바보)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화)

Brand/ Merchandise Marine Blues (마린블루스)

Welcome to Convenience Store (와라! 편의점) Socks Goblin (양말 도깨비)

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

Webtoon portals[edit]

The following table lists webtoon portals in Korea:

Service name Operating entity
Naver webtoon NAVER Corp.
LINE webtoon NAVER Corp.
Daum webtoon kakao Corp. (former. Daum communication.Inc)
Nate webtoon SKcommunications
Tstore webtoon SKcommunications
Foxtoon Foxtoon.Inc
Lezhin comics Lezhin entertainment.Inc
Olleh webtoon KT.Inc
Pikitoon Pikicast
Spottoon Spottoon
Comico NHN comico (former. NHN PlayArt)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herald, The Korea (2014-05-25). "Korean webtoons going global". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27. 
  2. ^ Welsh, David. "Forget Manga. Here's Manhwa". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27. 
  3. ^ Lee, Jun-Youb (2015-04-03). "Startup Battles Naver in English Webtoons". The Wall Street Journal. 
  4. ^ http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20151118000912
  5. ^ "[다시 도전이다] 미생·스틸레인 웹툰작가들, 美·中 독자도 웃고 울린다". Wow TV. 2015-01-01. 
  6. ^ Noh, Sueen. ""To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question": What Is Happening with Korean Comics, (Manhwa), Today?" International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA) 9.2 (2007): n. pag. International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA). John A. Lent, Sept. 2007. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
  7. ^ Han, Chang-wan (2012-06-30). 애니메이션 연구6(Animation studies6). 한국 애니메이션 학회(Korean cartoon and animation studies). pp. 124–139. 
  8. ^ "Popular Mobile Webcomic Service, LINE Webtoon, Debuts in the United States and Worldwide". PRNewswire. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Korea's webtoon market experiences exponential growth over past 10 years". Arirang News. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "South Korean 'webtoon' craze makes global waves | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  11. ^ Choi, yun cheol. "2009해외콘텐츠 시장조사(2009 abroad contents market research)". www.kocca.kr. 한국콘텐츠진흥원(Korea creative contents agency). 
  12. ^ 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. 

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