What is a Webtoon?
Webtoon (웹툰) is a combination of the word “web” and “cartoon”.
It’s a digital comic or manhwa you can (temporarily) download and read on mobile devices or desktop.
Webtoons are created by individuals or small teams, instead of studios.
They’re released in weekly Episodes and some of the longer ones have Seasons that can last a year.
Webtoons steadily gained popularity and grew into the most influential Manhwa medium in South Korea.
When were Webtoons Invented?
Webtoons were invented in February 2003 by Daum in South Korea as a response to the waning popularity of Manhwa (printed comic books).
“Love Story” by Kang Full was the first huge success on Daum to kickstart the Webtoon Industry.
Naver founded Line Webtoon in June 2004, and launched their website worldwide on July 2, 2004.
“The Sound of Your Heart” by Cho Seok became a sensational hit on Naver, making it the number one platform.
Now, many countries including Taiwan, Mainland China, India and Southeast Asia have their own blossoming Webtoon Industries.
Webtoons have yet to catch on in Japan since Manga is still going strong.
Why should I read Webtoons?
Whether you’re old, young, rich, poor, male or female, there’s a Webtoon for you. They cover every subject you can imagine from real life to fantasy.
They’re full of creative stories, compelling characters and beautiful drawings.
Webtoon quality is kept high by the legions of vigilant fans who directly interact with Webtoonists to give them feedback.
Plagiarism is self-policed by Webtoon fans who call out Webtoonists whenever they borrow concepts or characters from others intentionally or accidentally.
Webtoons are made to be read on your smartphone or tablet, so they’re easy to access and read.
Webtoons are perfect when you want to chill and have fun by yourself.
Webtoons are a great way to learn Korean if you already know how to read Hangeul.
Webtoons Vs. Manhwa/Manga
Webtoons are jazz to the classical music of Manhwa/Manga.
The latter have been around a lot longer and tend to follow more consistent forms.
On the other hand, Webtoons are unpredictable and have less structure. In many Webtoons, you’re not sure who the protagonist is and if they’ll actually prevail.
Here are some major differences between the two.
|Webtoons are digital.
|Manhwa/Manga are printed.
|Webtoons are colorful.
|Manhwa/Manga are mostly black and white.
|Webtoons are self-published.
|Manhwa/Manga are created by studios.
|Webtoons aren’t edited by studios.
|Manhwa/Manga are influenced by studios.
|Webtoons are critiqued directly by fans every week.
|Manhwa/Manga are critiqued after they’re completed.
|Webtoons are published online every week.
|Manhwa/Manga are published every week or month depending on the magazine. (for example, Weekly Shounen Jump vs Monthly Shounen Magazine)
Webtoons are self-published from the beginning and gain direct feedback from fans.
Manhwaga/Mangaka get experience by apprenticing under other more established artists, and then creating their own before presenting them to studios.
Webtoonists aren’t told what to create and the ones that are popular or have potential are selected by Naver, Daum and Kakaopage.
The only instruction a Webtoonist receives is what time to upload their episodes.
Studios give Mangaka instructions on what to create and the direction of stories. This can lead to formulaic manga that we love, but can get repetitive. (Think of the characters on Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, etc.)
Who can become a Webtoonist?
Anyone can be a Webtoonist (Webtoon Creator or Artist). Even you!
Many Webtoonists are beginners who learn on the job. You can even see the progression of their illustrations and writing.
Who can read Webtoons? What age group are Webtoons intended for?
Anyone who loves manhwa/comics can read and enjoy Webtoons.
Some Webtoons may not be suitable for your kids since most Webtoons are rated for readers above 12, 15 or 18 years old.
When can I read Webtoons?
You can read Webtoons anytime you want.
Koreans read them throughout the day, but Webtoon traffic peaks around 1 PM after lunch, and 5 PM when finishing work. Also, enthusiasts read Webtoons when new episodes are updated at 11 PM (for Naver) and 10 PM (for Daum) in Korea.
Where can I read Webtoons?
Major Webtoon platforms are Naver, Daum, Kakaopage and Lezhin Comics.
The differences between these platforms are:
- Naver Webtoon feels more accessible. Naver features way more Webtoons, offering a variety of options. Naver carries more school-related stories and feels a bit skewed towards younger audiences (in high school or college).
- Daum Webtoon has content like books or movies I want to collect. Daum seems to interact more with their Webtoonists than Naver. (Naver Webtoonists attract more controversy since Naver Webtoons are not filtered or edited by the person in charge.)
- Lezhin Comics is better for adult audiences with its paid system. It features more rated R Webtoons, which are difficult to serialize on other platforms. Lezhin carries more BL (Boy’s Love), GL/Baekhap (Girl’s Love) or maniac (graphic) topics.
- Kakaopage is hard to binge-read (정주행) since you can only read one episode every few hours/days for free.
Are Webtoons free?
Yes! They’re completely free. You can download their apps or sign up/read Webtoons.
You can view almost every episode from the beginning up to the nearly-latest ones for free on Naver and Daum. For Kakaopage, you need to wait 8 hours to 7 days to unlock the next episode for free.
If you want to fast track things and read the newest episodes before other people, you can purchase “coins”, such as “cookies” on Naver or “cash” on Daum and Kakaopage.
Why are Webtoons popular?
Initially, Webtoons became popular among manhwa fans with their optimization for smartphones with vertical scrolling and all-color screens.
Webtoons are created with vibrant colors and intricate drawings. Some are so beautiful, they wouldn’t be out of place in an art museum.
Webtoonists are passionate and hungry (only the top Webtoonists make a fortune). They come up with the story for each episode and draw about 100 scenes (cuts) every week.
Since Webtoons are digital, Webtoonists often collaborate with musicians, sometimes with K-pop stars, on the BGM (background music) for special episodes.
Also, being able to quickly and directly communicate with artists contributed to their popularity.
The success of K-dramas and movies based on Webtoons also helped!
Why are Webtoons adapted into K-dramas?
When a Webtoon is adapted into drama or movie, it’s easy to promote since it has a built-in fan base.
Also, the unique stories and character development bring something new to audiences.
“Kingdom” on Netflix, is actually based on the Webtoon, “The Kingdom of the Gods”.
How do I become a Webtoon artist?
You can self-publish your creation on a platform like Webtoon Canvas by Naver. Then, Naver might offer a contract to feature your Webtoon on Originals.
To promote your artwork and get more fans, feel free to post your Webtoon on our Forum.
How are webtoons created?
Webtoons have a weekly release schedule for their Episodes.
The longer Webtoons are divided by Seasons with a short break in between. This is the only time many Webtoonists can rest. As you might imagine, many have health issues. One even got COVID-19 and still worked at the hospital.
What types of Webtoons are there?
The four main categories of Webtoons are:
Webtoons often come in different variations of these four genres and sometimes combine more than one.
What are Korean Webtoons based on?
Korean Webtoons cover many subjects. The ones that are based on real life often contain scenes from Korea. Here are some pictures to give you context.