Daum Webtoon goes global

By Park Hyung-ki

Digital cartoons to lead in hallyu content, entertainment ecosystem

  • Published : Dec 17, 2014 - 20:54
  • Updated : Dec 17, 2014 - 20:59

The advent of digital technology had spelled trouble for professional and emerging comic book artists as the technology made paper books less appealing to readers.

With consumers shifting to digital content and services in droves, both newly created and long-standing comic books and characters faced their demise.

But in 2003, the convergence of information technology and offline cultural content, which led to the creation of a digital platform called Webtoon by Daum Communications, instantly changed their fates and spurred the development of comic content.
The Daum Webtoon platform is gearing up for global expansion through partnerships with Tapas Media and Disney’s Marvel. (Daum Kakao)

Daum Webtoon, run by Daum Kakao following the merger between the online portal and mobile messenger, gave both professionals and amateurs the opportunity to upload and distribute their work to a wider range of digital readers.

It also helped create blockbuster stories such as “Moss” and “Secretly, Greatly,” which were later made into motion pictures.

The latest TV drama hit, “Misaeng,” on the cable channel tvN was originally a Daum Webtoon comic book series.

With a slew of successful titles with original stories and characters, which have been made into other forms of entertainment such as films and TV dramas, webtoons are currently considered the next-generation content that can potentially appeal to overseas comic book readers and fans.

“In a sense, online and mobile webtoons can become transmedia platforms that can create a virtuous cycle in which cartoon characters and stories can move into film, TV, games and toys,” an industry source said.

“This is the kind of an ecosystem Korea needs for sustainability (in the entertainment industry).”
Toys and notebooks based on a Daum Webtoon character (Daum Kakao)

Daum Kakao has been gearing up to globalize its platform to further expose the works of Korean comic book artists overseas, in addition to investing in artists to create original stories whose characters can hopefully be merchandised in the form of toys.

It has partnered with Tapas Media, a Silicon Valley, California-based media start-up that operates an online comic portal platform called Tapastic. Tapas was founded by CEO Chang Kim, and its investors included Chester Roh, Korea’s renowned serial entrepreneur. Roh and Kim worked together when Roh founded Tatter and Company, which was acquired by Google in 2008.

Five hit titles, including Lee Se-hyung’s “Like a Wolf” and Lee Jun’s “Season of Su,” will be featured on Tapastic for U.S. readers.

Daum Kakao’s other partners in the U.S. include Disney’s Marvel Entertainment, which is known for its famous characters such as Iron Man and Spider-Man.

Korean artist Koh Young-hoon, who penciled the “Trace” webtoon series on the Daum platform, created the world’s first Marvel webtoon, “The Avengers: Electric Rain.”

Koh’s character White Fox in the Avengers webtoon series will be joining Marvel’s comic book universe in the near future, Daum Kakao said.

“By providing our talented Webtoon artists with a global platform, we hope to foster a strong ecosystem that allows them to showcase their works in new markets and maximize their potential in the process,” Daum Kakao said in a press statement.

“We hope that the exposure to a large global audience can help energize another Korean Wave.”

It said that it is currently eyeing online comic markets in China and Japan as part of its global expansion plans.

By Park Hyong-ki (