A Webtoon Culture Gives Rise to a New Wave of Korean Dramas

True Beauty Webtoon on Naver Webtoon (Credit: Webtoon)

We know cartoons, comics, Wattpad and Kindle, but Webtoons is not a common word you would hear in an everyday conversation. Unless you are a Korean fanatic or a ‘koreaboo’ — like many like to tag themselves as. Webtoons can also sometimes be hard to accept from the realistic feel of the paper, that we’ve been used to.

But as I would like to put it, Webtoons are the more modern version of comics. A Webtoon tells a story in the form of dialogues and is available to be read freely — and sometimes for a fee — on the web and mobile apps. In these Webtoons not only are the characters incredibly gorgeous but the storylines address a range of topics starting from self-acceptance, bullying, homosexuality, racism etc.

Featuring idols and famous actors and actress, Webtoons are in fact creating a new wave in Kdrama-land. In Hollywood, you would see comic adaptions that have been turned into movies and TV series, but there isn’t anything like a Webtoon!

For any avid Webtoon reader or for those who’ve recently joined in on the Webtoon club, True Beauty is a series that you can, not know. It took over the internet by storm and is the first of its kind to be based on Makeup.

(Credit: Webtoon Official Twitter)

This series tells the story of a girl who hides behind makeup after being bullied for years for her appearance. She goes through many trials throughout her younger days in middle school perfecting her makeup to become the pro she is during high school. And it is only one guy who has seen her with and without makeup. Like every Kdrama likes to portray, this is an accidental discovery that becomes the start of a beautiful friendship and more.

For over some time, many Koreans and international fans of the series have been voting for their dream cast even before it was ever considered being produced. This included BTS’s Jin as the male lead, AOA’s Seolhyun as the female lead and Kwon Hyunbin as the second male lead. Cha Eun Woo was also amongst the dream line up that the fans chose to play Su Ho, the male lead. And now with filming taking place, the excitement for the series is only building up further!

Besides the storyline, True Beauty has also captured many hearts for the amazing detailing and handsome characters created by Webtoon artist Yaongyi. According to Lim Ju Kyung — who uses Yaongyi as her pen name — Jugyeong Lim, the female lead, is an inspiration of her own self. And some theories say that the male characters result from her love for SF9 — she is a real FANTASY (Fandom name of SF9) at heart.

Webtoon Artist Ju Kyung (Credit: meow91_ Official Instagram)

A true beauty herself, Ju Kyung has over 1 million followers on Instagram and occasionally posts progress of her work letting in fans on the behind the scenes of the process.

She says, “I dreamt of becoming a cartoonist because I loved drawing from an early age. I did a lot of different things before committing myself to cartoons. I did various jobs. I used to work as a fitting model, and my experience in modelling helped me a lot with True Beauty”.

Webtoons have been in Korea ever since Daum Webtoon launched its platform in 2003. Later in 2004 Naver Webtoon was released and has now opened up many opportunities for enthusiastic Webtoon artists and readers.

The unique and inspiring story plots that come up in these Webtoons have caught the eyes of reputed production companies and directors. And now the old school way of a drama writer breaking through in the industry is taking a new turn. The shift in Webtoons being turned into dramas has opened gates to many aspiring Webtoon artists in Korea. Some of these Webtoon-turned-dramas have achieved unpredictably high ratings over the years too. Itaewon Class, Cheese in the Trap, My ID is Gangnam Beauty, Love Alarm, Extraordinary You and W are some Webtoon-turned-drama series worth binge-watching!

However, there are also certain Webtoons that have been turned into dramas but have failed to achieve the speculated success. Strangers from Hell and the Welcome series staring L from Infinite and Shin Ye Eun have seen some of the lowest ratings despite casting famous actors and idols.

The Webtoon industry in Korea amounts to over 1 trillion won and some famous writers earn over 100 million won annually. Although it was initially only a way of attracting people to increase website traffic, now the commercialization of this platform has transformed it into a booming creative industry of itself.

(Credit: Webtoon Official Twitter)

To encourage aspiring Webtoon artists to pursue in their dream of becoming a successful Webtoon artist, platforms like Naver Webtoon create contests and motivate writers by giving due recognition to their work and Webtoon achievements.

So now living the dream of a cartoonist or Webtoon artist isn’t considered a career with no future. But rather a gateway for much more!

Till then — await the release of True Beauty!

Honorary Reporter for Korea.net and an avid enthusiast of all things Korean