Webtoons (Hangul: 웹툰) are a type of digital comics (webcomics or digital manhwa) 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 sets 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.

Payment model

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.

Origins and History

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5] Examples of popular webtoons that have been translated into English are Lookism, Untouchable, Yumi's Cells, Tales of the Unusual, The God of High School, Noblesse, and Tower of God. In recent years, these webtoons have been gaining popularity in Western markets, rivalling Japanese manga.[6]

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.[7]

Generation Zero

Webtoon Zeroth generation
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.

First generation

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

Second generation

Webtoon second generation
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.[8]

Third generation

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.[9][10]


The market for webtoons and their derivatives is currently valued at around KR₩420 billion (US$368 million).[11]

Although digital comics are increasingly popular, print publication remains the primary means of comic retail. Some publishers offer online content and print content simultaneously.[12]

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 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.[13]

They also collaborate with movies.[14]

Outside of Korea

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.

China and Taiwan

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 Line Webtoon are more popular since their services are available there.[15]

South East Asia

Indonesia and Thailand have become big markets for the webtoon industry with both Naver (under Line 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 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.[16]

Western countries

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.[17][18] 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 Line Webtoon offering the ability for anyone to submit their own work.[19] 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.


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 get released and published. Even web manga, which have seen a recent rise in populartiy, get released in black-and-white and not color like in Korea or China despite being released digitally.[20] 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.[21] Lezhin, Comico, Naver, 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). 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.[22] Kakao Japan has announced that it will start offering original Japanese, Korean, and Chinese webtoons for Piccoma in the summer of 2018.[23]

Adaptations of webtoons

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 (film) (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 (film) (내부자들) (2015)

The Chase (2017 film) (반드시 잡는다) (2017)

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

Steel Rain (강철비) (2017)

Cheese in the Trap (film) (치즈 인더 트랩) (2018)

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)

Misaeng (미생) (2014)

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

Orange Marmalade (오렌지 마말레이드) (2015)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈인더트랩) (2016)

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

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

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)

Tale of Fairy (계룡선녀전) (2018)

Love Alarm (좋아하면 울리는) (2019)

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)

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

Story of Miho (미호이야기)

Notjima Jeongshinjul (놓지마 정신줄) (2014)

Noblesse (노블레스:파멸의 시작) (2015)

Noblesse: Awakening (노블레스: Awakening) (2016)

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)

See also


  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. ^ Herald, The Korea (2014-05-25). "Korean webtoons going global". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  3. ^ Welsh, David. "Forget Manga. Here's Manhwa". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  4. ^ Lee, Jun-Youb (2015-04-03). "Startup Battles Naver in English Webtoons". The Wall Street Journal.
  5. ^ 박형기 (November 18, 2015). "Rolling Story takes Korean webtoons to global audience". koreaherald.com. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  6. ^ "[다시 도전이다] 미생·스틸레인 웹툰작가들, 美·中 독자도 웃고 울린다". Wow TV. 2015-01-01.
  7. ^ "웹툰 속 '극단적 선택' 표현…네이버·다음 등 '웹툰 등급제' 시행 예정". Segyeilbo. 2019-05-14.
  8. ^ Han, Chang-wan (2012-06-30). 애니메이션 연구6(Animation studies6). 한국 애니메이션 학회(Korean cartoon and animation studies). pp. 124–139.
  9. ^ "Popular Mobile Webcomic Service, LINE Webtoon, Debuts in the United States and Worldwide". PRNewswire. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Korea's webtoon market experiences exponential growth over past 10 years". Arirang News. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  11. ^ "South Korean 'webtoon' craze makes global waves | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  12. ^ Choi, yun cheol. "2009해외콘텐츠 시장조사(2009 abroad contents market research)". www.kocca.kr. 한국콘텐츠진흥원(Korea creative contents agency).
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "영화를 웹툰으로 미리 본다? 영화X웹툰 콜라보의 세계". Cineplay. 2017-08-14.
  15. ^ https://www.bnext.com.tw/article/48619/how-line-webtoon-and-comico-to-do-ip-taiwan-comic-book
  16. ^ https://finance.yahoo.com/news/launching-first-digital-cartoon-vietnam-040000378.html
  17. ^ http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/search1/2603000000.html?cid=AEN20170711010700315
  18. ^ http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/search1/2603000000.html?cid=AEN20180409004800320
  19. ^ https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/22/tapas-media/
  20. ^ https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/02/business/manga-goes-digital-via-smartphone-apps-paper-comics-still-place/#.WuTsT4jwY2w
  21. ^ http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/08/134_235729.html
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Kakao-Japan-ramps-up-manga-content-via-smartphone-app

External links

A Simple Thinking About Blood Type

A Simple Thinking About Blood Type (Korean: 혈액형에 관한 간단한 고찰; RR: Hyeoraekyeonge gwanhan gandanhan gochal) is a Korean 4-panel webtoon by art teacher Park Dong-sun (박동선) under the art name "Real Crazy Man". The webtoon is themed around blood type personality classification and is serialized on Dong-sun's blog. The webtoon has been published in book form and has been adapted into an anime series.

Cheese in the Trap (TV series)

Cheese in the Trap (Korean: 치즈인더트랩) is a webtoon that was later adapted as a South Korean television series starring Park Hae-jin, Kim Go-eun, Seo Kang-joon and Lee Sung-kyung. It aired on the cable network tvN on Mondays and Tuesdays for 16 episodes between 4 January–1 March 2016. The series is based on the webtoon of the same name, serialized on Naver Webtoon from 2010–2016, although it featured an original ending since the webtoon had not been completed at the time of filming.

Daum (web portal)

Daum (Korean: 다음) is a South Korean web portal in South Korea, the top second along with Naver. Daum offers many Internet services to web users, including a popular free web-based e-mail, messaging service, forums, shopping, news and webtoon service. The word "daum" means "next", but it can also be interpreted as Hanja "多音", meaning "many sounds".


KakaoPage (Korean: 카카오페이지; RR: KakaoPeiji) is a monetized content platform optimized for mobile devices, launched by the Kakao Corp. The service launched on April 9, 2013, as a digital content marketplace allowing brands and individuals to create and distribute visual, audio and written content such as manwha and genre fiction.

Kang Full

Kang Full (or Kang Pool, Korean: 강풀) is the pen name of Kang Do-young (born December 7, 1974), a South Korean webtoon artist. Though he had no formal training in art or writing, Kang launched a website in 2002 to display his comics. Kang's webtoons quickly drew attention, resulting in several film adaption based on his works.

Line Webtoon

Line Webtoon (stylized as LINE WEBTOON) is a webtoon portal launched by Naver Corporation in Korea in 2005. The service gained a large amount of traction during the late 2000s and early 2010s. The service first launched in Korea as Naver Webtoon and then globally as Line Webtoon in July 2014 as the Naver brand is not well known outside the country and some of its services are also not available outside of Korea. In 2016, Naver's webtoon service entered the Japanese market as XOY and the Chinese market as Dongman Manhua. On December 18, 2018, Naver closed down XOY service in Japan and migrated all of its translated and original webtoons to Line Manga, its manga service that offers licensed manga.

Love Alarm

Love Alarm (Korean: 좋아하면 울리는; RR: Joahamyeon Ullineun) is an upcoming 2019 South Korean television series. It is a Netflix original series. The series is based on the webtoon of the same name by Chon Kye-young. It stars Kim So-hyun, Song Kang and Jung Ga-ram. It is set to premiere on Netflix on August 22, 2019.


Manhua (Chinese: 漫画; pinyin: Mànhuà; literally: 'impromptu sketches') are Chinese comics produced in China and the greater Sinosphere.


NEOWIZ Co., Ltd. (Korean: 네오위즈) is a South Korean online game company established in 2007. It is a subsidiary of Neowiz Holdings. Neowiz provides first-person shooters, sports, role-playing games and other various genres of games through a game portal website called 'Pmang'.

The company has been recognized for game distribution, but recently has been concentrating on enhancing its production skills and servicing its own games. Neowiz is continuing to provide its stable services on mobile as well as on PC. In addition to web boards such as 'Pmang Poker' and 'Pmang New Matgo', the company successfully placed 'Nobless with Naver Webtoon' which used Webtoon IP and SRPG 'Brown Dust' in the domestic market. Especially, 'Brown Dust' has been steadily growing and expanding service areas by being launched in Japan. Followed by such success, the company has also started providing services in 6 Southeast Asian countries in August 2018. Since then, with the plan for entering the Chinese market, Neowiz has been actively pursuing global market development.

In addition, in the first half of 2018, rhythm games 'Tapsonic World Champion', 'Muse Maker' and 'Tapsonic Top' were launched in succession. In the second half of the year, casual mobile games such as 'Jump Arena', 'Larva Match', 'Swipe Brick Breaker' and et cetera are also being launched.

Furthermore, large-scale MMORPG 'Bless' has also launched a global access service with an early-access version. Although it was a test phase, it ranked allegedly first in sales, attracting Minor interest from users in North America and Europe. It ranked Allegedly first in sales with only about 34k peak concurrent players at launch on NA Steam release. The devs were not able to maintain the player base and now the average 24 hour peak is about 500 players.


Naver (Hangul: 네이버)is a South Korean online platform operated by Naver Corporation. It debuted in 1999 as the first web portal in Korea to develop and use its own search engine. It was also the world's first operator to introduce the comprehensive search feature, which compiles search results from various categories and presents them in a single page. Naver has since added a multitude of new services ranging from basic features such as e-mail and news to the world's first online Q&A platform Knowledge iN.

As of September 2017, the search engine handled 74.7% of all web searches in South Korea and had 42 million enrolled users. More than 25 million Koreans have Naver as the start page on their default browser and the mobile application has 28 million daily visitors. Naver is also constantly referred to as 'the Google of South Korea'.

Naver (corporation)

Naver Corporation (KRX: 035420) is an Internet content service company headquartered in Seongnam, South Korea that operates the Korean search engine Naver. Naver established itself as an early pioneer in the use of user-generated content through the creation of the online Q&A platform Knowledge iN. Naver also manages global mobile services such as the mobile messenger LINE, video messenger Snow, and group communication service BAND.

On August 1, 2013, Naver decided to split with Hangame, a corporation which it had grown together with as NHN Corporation for 13 years. On October 1, 2013, the company adopted its current name Naver Corporation in order to reflect the change. Hangame is now overseen by NHN Entertainment. Naver's current affiliates include Line Corporation, Snow, Naver Labs, Naver Webtoon, Naver Business Platform, and Works Mobile. The company is currently cooperating with IT startups in order to evolve into a tech-based platform.

Noblesse (manhwa)

Noblesse (Korean: 노블레스; RR: Nobeulleseu) is a webtoon written by Son Jeho and illustrated by Lee Kwangsu. Noblesse was first posted on Naver Webtoon on 30 December 2007, and was concluded on 7 January 2019; it was among the first webtoons to receive an English translation at the launch of Line Webtoon in July 2014. It has been adapted into two original video animations in 2015 and 2016.

Save Me (webtoon)

Save Me (Hanja: 花樣年華 pt. 0 ; Hangul: 화양연화 pt.0 ; RR: Hwayangyeonhwa pt. 0: Save Me; lit. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 0: SAVE ME) is a 2019 webtoon collaboratively produced by Big Hit Entertainment and Naver Webtoon's subsidiary LICO as part of Big Hit's BTS Universe (BU) which revolves around the output of South Korean boy band BTS. It ran from January 17 to April 11, consisting of 15 episodes plus one prologue.

The central characters of Save Me are the alter egos of the band's seven members, each named after each band member's real name. The webtoon tells the story of Kim Seok-jin who is trapped in a time loop, repeatedly reliving his life starting from the 11th of April until he accomplishes to save his six remaining friends from their miseries.Save Me's original version in Korean is available via Naver's webtoon portal while the official English version is posted in Line Webtoon.

Tapas (syndicate)

Tapas, formerly known as Tapastic, originally known as Comic Panda, is a webtoon syndicate set up by South Korean entrepreneur Chang Kim in September 2012. Operated from both Seoul and Burlingame by Tapas Media, Tapastic features a large collection of short-form, English-language webcomics and webtoons from over 5,000 artists. The website aims to create a platform where comic creators can publish their works without cost, describing itself as the "YouTube of Comics." Since 2016, the Tapas Media's mobile app also publishes books through a freemium business model.

The Gamer (manhwa)

The Gamer (Korean: 더 게이머, RR: Deo Geimeo) is a webtoon hosted by Naver Webtoon. The webtoon is loosely influenced by fantasy RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, and comic fantasy book series Discworld but set in contemporary South Korea, originally not introducing anything out of the ordinary. Once the main protagonist, Han Jihan, notices a dialogue box in front of him like in a video game, he recognizes that he has become a video game character, and supernatural events start happening.

The Sound of Heart

The Sound of Your Heart (Korean: 마음의 소리; also known as The Sound of Your heart, Sound of Heart) is a South Korean webtoon series written and illustrated by Jo Seok. The webtoon was first released on the Naver Webtoon internet portal in 2006. In 2007, the first print volume was released and The Sound of Your Heart was adapted into a TV series of the same name in 2015.

W (TV series)

W (Korean: 더블유; RR: Deobeulyu) is a 2016 South Korean television series, starring Lee Jong-suk and Han Hyo-joo. Consisting of 16 episodes, it aired on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 22:00 (KST) on MBC from July 20 to September 14, 2016. W centers on the clash between “two worlds”: the real world and a fantasy world inside a webtoon, from which the title of the television series was taken.The series received praise for its unique premise and ranked first in Content Power Index in its premiere week. It achieved modest ratings of 11.63%, topping viewership ratings in its time slot for its entire run.

Webtoon Hero Toondra Show

Webtoon Hero Toondra Show (Korean: 웹툰히어로 툰드라쇼) is a 2015 South Korean television series starring Park Jung-hwa, Son Jin-young and Kim Kyung-shik. The first season aired on cable channel MBC Every 1 from July 27 to October 19, 2015. And the second season aired on the same channel from January 28 to April 14, 2016.

Welcome to Convenience Store

Welcome to Convenience Store (Korean: 와라! 편의점; RR: Wara! Pyeonuijeom) is a webtoon set in a convenience store, created by Ji Kang-min. The webtoon began in February 2008 and received an award at the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival that same year. A paperback version was released on October 23, 2008.

Welcome to Convenience Store was adapted into multiple animated series, as well as a mobile game distributed by Kakao. Characters from the webtoon have appeared in a variety of media and merchandise.

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