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Saturday, April 02, 2022 

Are printed editions of Korean manhwa fading as a business?

The Financial Times reported about Korean webtoon producers who want to make a global takeover on the smartphone business, even though their industry, compared to Japanese manga, isn't that well known outside of Asia, and in print, they may be fading:
One of the pioneers of the industry is Kim Jun-koo, a software engineer who was frustrated by the slow death of traditional Korean manhwa comic books in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

His webtoon platform Naver Webtoon, which he founded in 2004, is now the world’s largest, boasting 750,000 creators and 82mn monthly active users. Gross merchandise volume, a metric for the amount of money spent by users within the app, increased from $492mn in 2019 to $900mn in 2021.

“A webtoon is not a digital version of a comic book. It is a comic that has been created digitally,” said Kim. “In Korea, comic books were fading away, it was an example of a dire situation leading to innovation.”

Leading platforms like Naver Webtoon and Kakao Webtoon offer creators tools to create and upload webtoons for free, giving audiences a near-unlimited range of content.

“There is no genre limitation in webtoons, and the genres are very diverse,” said Jang Min-gi, professor of media communications at Kyungnam University. “Users can see them on the move, access them very quickly and view them in a very short span of time.”
Good heavens. I don't know about Japan, but it sounds like in Korea, they've been forced by problematic economy to change their approach. Either way, it's not great if manhwa was plummeting in any way, if only because they doubtless have some potential, if you know where to look. However, I do think these manhwa publishers are making a mistake partnering with certain USA-based outfits:
In 2019, Kakao Entertainment entered into a collaboration with American comic book publisher DC Comics. Naver Webtoon has entered into partnerships with DC, its rival Marvel, Archie Comics, and Hybe, the South Korean business behind BTS. [...]

We’re now focusing on expanding into the US, which is the world’s largest content market. To become successful there, we need to make webtoons tailored for American tastes,” said Park Jeong-seo of Kakao Entertainment, which acquired Los Angeles-based webtoon publisher Tapas Media last year in a deal worth $510mn.
But exactly what crowd's tastes do they believe they should be catering to? If it turns out they believe far-left ideologies are what they should pander to, they'll fail their quest. Not to mention teaming up with DC/Marvel/Archie at this point, years after they succumbed to extreme left ideologies themselves, is also ill-advised. I'd like to wish some of these Korean outfits good luck, but if they really do end up pandering ideologically, they'll fail before they've even begun. A shame how foreign marketers aren't doing deep enough research to know how best to tailor their comics or animation.

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