The Korea Herald

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Web novels follow webtoons' successful footsteps

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Feb. 8, 2023 - 17:11

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Cover image of Cover image of "Return of the Blossoming Blade" (Naver Webtoon)

After becoming a new major source for alternate forms of multimedia content, web novels -- written works available primarily online -- are poised to continue following the successful footsteps of webtoons, setting new sales records and yielding successful drama adaptations.

Naver Series, South Korean tech giant Naver’s web-based book platform, said that the accumulated sales of its action fantasy novel “Return of the Blossoming Blade” hit a record-high of 40 billion won ($31.8 million).

“Return of the Blossoming Blade,” titled “Hwasan Gwihwan” in Korean, revolves around master swordman Cheongmyeong who is reincarnated as a baby after he is killed in a bloody battle against Cheon-ma, a powerful demon.

Since its first release in April 2019, the web novel has topped various Naver Series charts -- including its live chart, daily chart and monthly chart -- and recorded a total of 490 million views as of Monday.

Proving its seemingly unending popularity, the web novel has been adapted into a webtoon series, audio drama and comic book series.

When a famous web novel is adapted into a TV drama, it's often a hit.

Kakao Page’s web novel “The Office Blind Date” by author HaeHwa has proven the power of digital literature, with its rom-com television adaptation “Business Proposal” notching the No. 1 slot on Netflix’s weekly chart of non-English shows in April 2022.

Cable channel JTBC’s hit drama “Reborn Rich” earned 26.9 percent viewership, becoming the first TV series to get a viewership rating over 20 percent among terrestrial broadcasters and cable channels in 2022.

According to Naver Webtoon and Naver Series, the sales of the web novel “Reborn Rich” has increased 230 times within two months, due to many fans who bought the original web novel after watching the adapted television series. The novel was translated into Thai and Indonesian, topping the charts of Naver Webtoon Thai and Indonesian, respectively.

“The performance of ‘Return of the Blossoming Blade’ has shown the new value of web novels. Naver Series hopes to expand the web novel market, collaborating with Naver Webtoon’s intellectual property value chain and various business opportunities,” Naver Series’ web novel director Park Jae-yeon said in a press release.