Naver to export webtoons

March 24, 2014

By Kim Rahn

Korea’s biggest portal site operator is set to export a new genre within the Korean culture ― webtoons.

Naver said Sunday that beginning this year, it will provide foreign-language services for the online comic strips.

The project comes as the popularity of webtoons continues to mushroom, with nearly 20 million people here enjoying them each month through websites ― Daum and Nate as well as Naver.

“We plan to launch English services for some webtoons this year, which marks the 10th year of Naver’s webtoon services since 2005,” said a company official.

Han Seong-sook, chief of the company’s services departments, also said in a recent forum organized by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning that webtoons will be the next-generation model of service exports after the firm’s mobile messenger, Line. She said webtoons can become a key content for “hallyu” in 10 years.

Opening English services will be the first step toward the globalization of webtoons.

“After launching it, we may have to focus on raising global awareness of webtoons and the cartoonists for the first several years. Then we’ll be able to expand readership,” the official said.

If the plan goes smoothly, Naver expects webtoons to become a major source for “one-source, multi-use” by 2024, meaning soap operas, movies or other cultural products made based on webtoons.

Some webtoons have already been used as the basis for productions in other genres, including “Secretly, Greatly” and “Late Blossom” that were transformed into movies, and “The Great Catsby,” into a musical.

For the English language service, Naver is selecting webtoons that have already gained international popularity. “Noblesse,” “Tower of God,” “God of High School,” and “Girls of the Wild’s” are likely to be on the list of the services.

“We are selecting webtoons with stories that can be acceptable universally, such as fantasies,” the official said.

Naver CEO Kim Sang-hun also said earlier that it is highly likely that Korea’s webtoons will become a big success in the global market because webtoons are new and rare in Western countries and Japan.

“Korean webtoons can achieve bigger results than singer Psy achieved through YouTube,” Kim said.

In the Frankfurt Book Fair last October, Naver introduced some 30 webtoons which attracted huge attention.

“We organized autograph events with three webtoon cartoonists for three days, and about 20,000 people came. Some people said they live in other European countries but came to Germany because they were fans of the webtoons,” the Naver official said.

In the London Book Fair to be held April 8-10, Korea has been picked for Market Focus and it will promote webtoons. Naver hopes to organize business meetings with cartoon industry people there.

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