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Movies based on webtoons flourish

Thanks to their popularity online, many webtoons, especially the works of Kang Full, have been made into movies. From political drama to murder thriller, these movies show off diverse genre and style.

One of the most anticipated films this month, “26 Years,” is based on Kang’s 2006 work of the same title. The film tells the story of five ordinary people who together make a plan to assassinate the former president Chun Doo-hwan, for the massacre of innocent civilians while crushing a pro-democracy movement in Gwangju in May 1980.

The film is being released weeks before the presidential election, causing much buzz about its politically-sensitive content even before the official opening. The production of the movie was paid for by online crowdfunding, as its initial pitches had been turned down by investors for the past three to four years. 
A scene from “26 Years,” an upcoming movie that’s based on Kang Full’s webtoon of the same title. (All That Cinema)
A scene from “26 Years,” an upcoming movie that’s based on Kang Full’s webtoon of the same title. (All That Cinema)

Another film adaptation of Kang’s work, “The Neighbor,” enjoyed much popularity earlier this year. The serial-killer thriller was released in August, and generally received positive reviews from the local press. The film sold over 2.43 million tickets, becoming the highest grossing film among the movie adaptations of Kang Full’s works.

Director Kwak Gyeong-taek’s last year’s romance “The Pained” was also based on Kang’s work of the same title. The film, starring actor Kwon Sang-woo and actress Jeong Ryeo-won, told the love story of a young man who has lost all of his tactile senses and taste from a childhood trauma, and a woman who suffers from hemophilia. The movie’s soundtrack was sung by prominent singer Im Jae-beom.

Webtoons were also used in this year’s movie project by Samsung Electronics, which was filmed entirely with the company’s tablet hybrid mobile the Galaxy Note.

Titled “Cine Note,” the film project was comprised of three shorts by three celebrated directors: “Sunny” director Kang Hyeong-cheol, “The Front Line” director Jang Hoon, and “Actresses” and “Untold Scandal” director E J-yong. Popular actor Ha Jeong-woo played the leading role for all three.

Noted webtoon artists Sohn Je-ho and Lee Gwang-soo created the film’s animated content, using the Samsung mobile device. Their webtoon images were often overlaid with the footage of actor Ha Jeong-woo, escalating the dramatic conflicts in the films.

Another webtoon artist Ju Ho-min’s “Shingwa Hamkkae (With God)” is also scheduled to be made into a film. Director Kim Tae-yong, who is best known for his romance “Late Autumn” ― which starred top Chinese actress Tang Wei and local star Hyun Bin ― will be in charge of the upcoming movie.

“Shingwa Hamkkae” is a spiritual tale featuring the afterlife, with many Buddhist references as well as ones of local shamanism. The book version of the online comic series was also published in August this year.

“I want to create works that the readers want to keep,” Ju wrote in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

“That’s why I put a lot of effort when publishing them as a book. But I don’t think about other forms of media when creating my works. Every medium ― books, webtoons, and movies ― has its own style. And I follow the style of comics when I work. I don’t think comics that are ‘cinematic’ end up becoming movies; it’s the good, engaging comics that get to be made into movies as well.”

By Claire Lee (