Why Korean Webtoons Will Be the Next Big Thing in Comics

When it comes to comics, it seems the industry never stays in one place for long. As new and old publishers search for up-and-coming hits, the industry itself has found new mediums to embrace. This is why manga has become the dominant seller of comics globally, and now, it seems South Korean webtoons are next in line to blow.

Recently, a report by Europe Comics brought attention to the webtoon industry's growth and for good reason. The piece, which can be read in full here, breaks down the revenue of the global comics industry. Believed to be upwards of $20 billion USD, the industry does have major players who account for more than 50% of that cash flow. These are the brands to watch moving forward, and it just so happens several of the top-ranking publishers are all about webtoons.

Manga giants like Shueisha and Kodansha lead the top ten list, but Kakao and Naver are hard to miss. The two South Korean publishers ranked fifth and sixth on the list respectively. This put them above major players like Marvel Comics and DC Comics, so you can see why webtoons are sparking conversation in the industry.

"Let's look at the data: the comics market in the US is valued at $1.3 billion and the Francophone market at 600€ million, according to the most recent calculations from 2020," Europe Comics writes. "As for webtoons, revenues have already reached the dimensions of the American market, growing from $577 million in 2019 to $950 million in 2020. Enough said, except one more note for perspective: the US comics industry has been around for over a century, and Korean webtoons for just a decade. Let that sink in."

Cleary, webtoons are growing fast, and their popularity is being expanded with multimedia deals. From live-action Korean dramas to anime series and even manga tie-ins, the webtoon market is already a global force to reckon with. When you combine the industry's plentiful apps and translation tools with webtoon merchandising, you can see why this report has trained its focus on the medium. It is expanding at an exponential rate, but the question remains whether webtoons can sustain growth.

Of course, the medium has external factors helping it along. The explosion of hallyu content from K-pop to K-dramas outside of Korea has only bolstered webtoons. Companies like Naver and Kakao are directly advertising their comics to readers globally, and despite some paywalls, these companies offer content for free to reel readers in.

From True Beauty to Tower of God and I Love Yoo, there are plenty of webtoons available to read, and it has never been easier to check them out. With just a decade under its thumb, the medium has set up an industry capable of outperforming legends like Marvel. And if given the space to grow, Korean webtoons may find themselves reeling in the kind of cash manga does.

What do you think about the latest data about webtoon's boom? Do you keep up with any Korean web comics? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB.