Everyone has a memory about cartoons. When you were young, you might have bought bread with a sticker of cartoon characters and spent your daily time talking about cartoon stories with friends. If you hadn't watched them, you might not have joined the conversation. Besides, you might have memorized many names of famous cartoons and tried to collect pocket money to buy the same toys as the cartoon's heroes had. Although you have grown away from the cartoon as you grew up, they still exist in many other areas. Cultural contents such as movies, dramas, and musicals, are affected by cartoons. As a result, the cartoon market is getting broad. Why don't you enjoy artoons in honor of Cartoon day, celebrated every November 3?
• Flow of Cartoon
1. Start of cartoon
The Korean cartoon was started by Lee Do-Young's critique in Dae han min bo in 1909.
The major subject of these cartoons was the depressing social situation of Joseon right before the Colonial Rule. Soon after, various genres of cartoons appeared. It was a great medium for civilians in the dark ages due to the Japanese government and the Korean War.
After the war, public entertainment magazines and children’s cartoons, as well as sci-fi cartoons, emerged, and they made the golden age of Korean cartoons. 'Bo mool seom', a cartoon magazine, was published, and 'The Little Dinosaur Dooly' and 'Hany' were serialized. Dooly, who was sleeping inside of an iceberg which floated to center of Seoul, was helped by generous kids to live in Go Gil Dong's home, and various situations and stories were made in that house.
‘Hany’ was the story of Hany, who lost her mother and lived alone. She never gave up her dream to be an athlete with Hong Du-Ke (her middle school teacher). Those two cartoons were converted to television cartoons and even to cinematic films after serialization in cartoon magazines, and became popular comics for everyone from kids to adults who were indulged in memories. Also, in addition to 'Bo mool seom', many cartoon magazines were published, and it was the time when cartoonists became active. Bookstores became popular as comic magazines flourished.
2. Romance comics
As bookstores get bigger, the girl-oriented comics market, which stimulatesgirls’ emotions, also get bigger, too. In addition to the famous foreign animations like 'Mask of Glass', 'Lady Oscar', and 'Candy Candy’, Korean artists’ works became popular. Hwang Mi-na's works, like 'Blue star of Ionia' and 'Goodbye Mr. Black' were popular, and in addition, Won Su-yeon, who is the original writer of 'Full House’, which was made into a soap opera, was also popular. The soap opera 'Full House' is now greatly reputed, and a cartoon named 'Mary is Sleeping Out' will soon be on television.
The period of the 80~90's was the golden age of Korean cartoons with various genres. However, in the 90's, after cartoon markets were opened, Japanese popular cartoons invaded, and now Japanese cartoons dominate 80% of the Korean cartoon market.
3. Appearance of Webtoons
A series of short gag comics were introduced to the online community in the 90's. It was the beginning of the Webtoon.
In the early 21st century, the genre 'Webtoon' got popular as Internet news and portal sites used cartoons as primary contents. Major cartoons of that time were 'Kwangsoo's thought', 'Marineblues', 'Ah saek gi ga' and 'Snow cat'. Webtoons grew fast with the first generation of web cartoonists like Kangfull (Kang Do-young), Yang Yeong-soon, and Kang Do-ha.
It is easy to access Webtoons, and people can view them in a brief click.
This is the greatest advantage of the Webtoon and a decisive factor in the growth of the Webtoon in a short period of time, with only about 10 years history. Experts say the Webtoon leads printed cartoons in a ripple effect. In cartoon rental shops, most cartoons are imported cartoons from Japan. This large market share of Japanese cartoons will continue for a prolonged period.
Meanwhile, in the case of Webtoons, the cartoonist can meet readers directly through online media without publishing. As such, once the work has public interest, it becomes famous through word-of-mouth. Because there is great potential in Webtoons, more Webtoonists with brilliant imaginations and individuality would appear. Also, the characters in popular Webtoons are commercialized, like with ‘Marine Blues’. Webtoon shops sell those products already.
4. Change of cartoon
As the cartoon gains huge popularity again through Webtoons, it is being adapted for various cultural contents. Several movies, games, and soap dramas are adapted from popular cartoons. Some romantic soap dramas remind adults of girls’ comics from the 80~90s, which stimulated girls’ sensitivity. At the same time, they appeal to younger generations that don’t know the original cartoon.
‘Gung’ and ‘Full house’ were based on Korean cartoons, and ‘Boys over Flowers’ was from a Japanese cartoon. The movie ‘Moss’, adapted from a popular Webtoon, was a box office hit thanks to the Webtoon’s popularity. In addition, Tazza and Sikgeak are representative movies based on popular cartoons. In addition to soap dramas and movies, games adapted from popular cartoon stories and characters gain popularity. For example, games based on Lineage’s story fascinated many gamers.
Marketability of cartoons
The cartoon market has potential. Japan has the biggest market in cartoon and animation. It forms six trillion won markets value just in primary book-selling. But this is just one part. When you add profits derived from secondary products like animation and character-selling, it amounts to a hundred trillion won markets value, which equals 40 percent of the Korean yearly national budget.
Then, what are the differences in the Korean market and other countries, particularly Japan and China? First, the biggest one is the recognition of the cartoon. We usually see cartoons only for children, so that it is shameful for adults to read comic books. The age group of Japanese readers, however, is broad, from children to adults. You may be able to see many people of all ages enjoying cartoons in the subway in Japan. Also, China's support at the national level is beyond imagination. China is one of the rising blue chips in the cartoon market. Animation is supported as one of the main governmental businesses. The Chinese government establishes the animation production fund and grants 14 million Yuan to related industries every year.
In addition, it introduces new scientific systems to manage animation production and broadcasting. For this reason, the Japanese see a cartoonist as an artist or a scholar, one of the respectful professions, in contrast with Korea, where cartoonist is viewed as a low paid job. Besides, Chinese support in cartoons makes it possible to create cartoons with quality and various contents. As you can see through the examples of Japan and China, The cartoon market has the potential to grow further.
Korea is looking bullish in the animation business. According to culture industry statistics, 2007 animation sales recorded 311 billion won, which is a 7.8% higher growth rate than last year. Meanwhile, Korea is just a subcontract of the American and Japanese animation industry. However, it has produced creations steadily since ten years ago, and recently began to achieve results. Pucca and Pororo, made in Korea, are exported to all over the world to increase popularity. They create huge profits just by royalty income from characters. Pororo recorded 300 billion won in overseas sales.
Pucca is so popular that 97 percent of its income of 300 billion won in 2008 came from abroad. This proves that successful content creates other contents derived from it. However, the companies preparing to advance abroad are small-scale, and they have no experience. Thus, the government should have a support system and suggest guides by stage for the industry’s development.
Feel the passion of the cartoon-holic
On September 18th, we visited the Bucheon Comic Festival. Many people were enjoying the festival at that place. In particular, many students made this place lively.
After buying free pass tickets, we passed into the Adrian Smith collection.Adrian Smith is one of the most famous English illustrators, who drew War Hammer’s graphic. His pictures looked like a part of game.
The Asia Three Kingdoms comic section had all about Three Kingdoms. In that section, people could use an I-pad to watch Three Kingdoms and play the Three Kingdoms game. Also, they sold many different Three Kingdoms comic books. The three Kingdoms’ wall paintings showed off oriental charm.
We went to the comic Kyu-jang-kak. On the first floor, there were many companies’ PR section for comic products and the best comic contents sections. It also had an event “Play rock scissors paper”; if someone beat Gitaro, they could take the prize.
The second floor was made of the library and ICC (International Comic artist Conference) artiest invitation exhibit. This exhibit was organized by nation. All nations separated their nation’s comic genres, so people could recognize their ways of creation and different working styles.
We also watched their diverse styles, genres, languages, and lively characters.
The third floor was decked with Choi Ho-cheol’s piece. Choi Ho-cheol was the winner of last year’s Bucheon comic grand prize. His theme was ‘Into the real world’. He drew the dark side of the big and bright city. Many poor people lived in his paintings. One of his pieces which he didn’t finish yet was especially interesting. Through his exhibition, people could see the cross-over digital folding screen that mixed with historical pictures and comic characters.
When we walked on the road of the ‘Korean comic history 100 years’, we could meet the old style comic room. Many elderly people were thinking of their childhoods and enjoyed their memories. Next to that place, the Kim Jong-rae memory hall was placed. He was the first man who opened the golden age of comic books.
They also had a place where people could experience 4D movies. It was a fantastic experience! While watching movies, people could feel wind, smell, and everything.
The Bucheon Comic Festival had a lot of fun and interesting elements. Everyone who visits the Bucheon Comic Festival (even those who don’t like comic books) will be fascinated about comics!
Enjoy cartoons! There are many events you can participate in to enjoy cartoons: The Comic World, one of the comprehensive festivals displaying amateur cartoons, is held periodically in Seoul and Busan with the aim of creating a place for cartoonists to share their opinions; The Dicu Festival is held every six months in Daejeon; and The Lake Comic Festival is held every year in Goyang. You are also able to contact Webtoons through many portal sites: NAVER, DAUM, and PARAN, to name a few. Cartoons are everywhere in many forms. If you can enjoy them, your life will be much more enjoyable.