Korean webcomics have become larger than life literally! Having spread to as far as the US and UK market, they are conquering the webcomic digital market. Currently valued at around $368 million, they have won millions in fan following, thanks to its scroll-down format, popular content, and exceptional artwork. South Korean webtoon companies have emerged as global content suppliers almost at par with Japan that is considered the empire of the cartoon.
Koreatechdesk.com lists the top 5 Korean webcomic companies that are riding high on their success:
1. Naver’s Webtoon:
Webtoon is the most-read digital publisher in the world! Webtoon’s popularity has surpassed Marvel, DC, European comics publishers, and Japanese manga publishers. Initially launched in South Korea in 2004 and launched in the US in 2014, the comics are free to read on the phone app or a web browser. They get 15 million readers per day worldwide, which totals up to 55 million readers a month. There’s an almost unfathomable number of series on Webtoon with virtually every genre include – Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Humour, Slice of Life, LGBTQ, Comedy, Action, Drama, you name it. Webtoon currently publishes 2,600 exclusive titles. The company made about $59.8 million in sales in 2018.
For non-Korean comic fans – Naver webtoons can be savoured through Line Webtoon, a website that offers translated versions. The official translation supports only English and Chinese, but for some popular series, languages such as Spanish, German, Thai and Italian are available.
Daum Webtoon is one of the oldest webtoon platforms in Korea; its success came with Kangfull’s Romantic Comic that became successful in 2004, reaching a total of 3.2 million views. Currently, Daum has about 7 million monthly users. Daum Webtoon, run by Daum Kakao, signed a MoU with the drama production company Mega Monster and broadcaster KBS to produce one drama each year for the next three years. A comic series from Daum Webtoon will be adapted into drama and aired on KBS. The first comic that is set to be made into a TV show is “Dead Man’s Letter,” a popular mystery series with very high ratings.
Daum has also been gearing up to globalize its platform. It has partnered with Tapas Media, a California-based media startup that runs an online comic portal called Tapastic. Daum’s hits, including Lee Se-hyung’s “Like a Wolf” and Lee Jun’s “Season of Su,” will be featured on Tapastic for US readers. Its other partners include Disney’s Marvel Entertainment.
Lezhin, owned by Lezhin Entertainment, a startup founded in 2013, is one of Webtoon’s biggest rivals. It has been producing some of the most popular of webtoon titles in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English. It has more than 8,000 webtoon titles and launches over 250 new titles each week. The startup was founded by Hee Sung Han and Chris Kwon as a free-to-read service and has a model where creators are offered options to monetize their work through a revenue-sharing model. Fans can download the comics using Lezhin’s app, which is compatible with Android and Apple users. It also offers a variety of mature content full of topics under romance, fantasy, drama, etc.
With a much wider audience beyond Korea, in Europe, and the US, Lezhin is one of the biggest webtoons exporting Korean companies. Lezhin’s comic app has over 1.6 million downloads per month. The startup has generated an average of $6 million in annual revenue. It surpassed about $8.7 million in sales in the US market in 2018. To date, the company has raised a total of $52.8 million in three rounds with investors like NCSOFT, IMM Private Equity, and Bigbang Angels.
4. Mr. Blue
Mr. Blue is another popular cartoon platform that offers its popular comics for free. It has about 700,000 cartoon comic novels that can be accessed on the app. One has to create an account first, which can be done simply via email.
The genre is wide, from romance, BL, fantasy, martial arts, sports, action, harlequin, school, comics, horror, sci-fi, thriller, reasoning, history, lanobelle, and more. The app has an ‘events’ menu that shows the popular-by-season genre of comics. There is a free gift box coupon that allows the reader to watch the steamed webtoon comic fiction for free.
Toomics was selected as the “Popular app for the year” on Google Play in 2017. It offers high-quality premium webtoons of various genres. It also launched its mobile app, “Tom Mix,” where readers can enjoy the mix times webtoons on the app. The app has a ‘Monthly to Mix’ exclusive service and offers popular webtoons for free.
Toomics has a total of 300 high-quality WebTunings, including weekly/monthly serials, genre-specific comics on Romance, BL, horror, action, etc. Tomix is updated every night at 10 o’clock. A menu such as “Recently Viewed,” “I watched,” “Favorite” allows the reader to trace the history of serials they have watched.