The Golden Age of Webtoons - The UOS Times
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Culture
The Golden Age of Webtoons
Kim Ye-seul Editor-in-Chief  |  yeseul@uos.ac.kr
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[0호] 승인 2007.10.29  
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Throw out your prejudice that you can only see cartoons in comic books. Now is the age of webtoon. You don`t have to borrow comic books from a lending library. You can see the cartoons that you want with just a few clicks on the Internet for free. Website and cartoon have been compounded as a one word "Webtoon" which is another name for online cartoons.

Park Seong-sik, head of the Dept. of the Cartoon Industry in the Korea Culture and Content Agency, said, "Online cartoons have become one of the entertainment genres. I paid attention because it is developed on the Internet as readers sympathize with cartoonists." It means webtoon has affected the comic industry.

Online cartoons have started as flash animation such as `YeopGi Rabbit` and `Zolaman.` It wasn`t just a short trend. Rather, flash animation developed into webtoons, scan cartoons which scan comic books and serial comics that have a form of story. Now, webtoons are receiving attention as a new alternative in the comic industry.

Portal sites such as Daum, Naver started to offer cartoons in 2000. At that time Lycos offered free cartoons and users recognized that it was possible to see cartoons on the Internet. They were two-column cartoons initially because technical foundation was weak. So people could easily see cartoons through the monitor screen. From people in their twenties to all age groups who used a computer, many looked at webtoon.

As webtoons gained popularity, famous cartoonists appeared. On Daum Media, `Sunjeong Comic` which means boy-meets-girl story recorded 2 million hits per a day and 60 million hits in total. Gangpull who made this cartoon drew other webtoons and they also won popularity. `Golbang Hwansang Gok` which is being serialized on the portal site Naver, won the first prize in the `2006 Korea Comic Contest.` In addition, webtoons like `Papepopo`, `Maumui Sori`, `Trauma` and `The Great Catsby` are also popular.

Popular webtoons don`t limit their publishing only to the Internet. It is re-created as a book, a movie, a play, a musical and so on. Representatively `Papepopo Memories` was a bestseller and sold more than 2 million copies. Gangpull`s `Sunjeong Comic` was produced as a play and gained public favor. `Apartment` which is another webtoon of Gangpull was made into a movie. And `The Great Catsby` was also produced as a musical and a drama.

Why are webtoons so popular? A critic Baek Jeong-suk said "Webtoons correspond with changes from social concerns to relational concerns between individuals in society." Many webtoons which use ordinary life like college students who are concerned about reports and employment or an employee who is suffering from lack of accomplishment as a subject matter elicit sympathy from readers. For example, `Apartment` deals with lots of meanings related to apartments which have become symbols of daily life.

Direct communication between cartoonists and readers is one of the factors in the popularity of webtoons. There is no censorship because the editor or the publisher doesn`t intervene. And readers can communicate with cartoonists by posting their opinion on the free message board. Cartoonists can understand which part was good and fun. Readers even correct spelling or grammar.

People are able to see webtoons on portal sites, cartoonist`s homepages and other reader`s blogs. So when there is a sympathetic story, they copy that webtoon to their own homepage or blog and share it with others. Thanks to this feature, there is no limitation to the arena of webtoons on the Internet.

Webtoons are progressing from the online world to books, movies and plays continuously. Subject matters which elicit sympathy from readers become more varied. Of course all webtoons are not always popular and profitable. However, webtoons are currently showing more development than ever in the comic industry, where the weekly magazines have become monthly. It is the golden age of webtoons.
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