How often do watch webtoons? Currently, it is very popular to reconstruct webtoons into the form of dramas. More than 20 webtoons have been confirmed to be produced as dramas and movies in Korea this year. In particular, Kakao Corporation sold more than 50 copyrights last year, including <Good bye, Mother>, <Unfinished>, <Live, Latte>, and <Dangerous>.
The word webtoon is a combination of web and cartoon. Webtoons are distributed over the Internet in the form of a series. According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the domestic webtoon market has grown from KRW 150 billion won in 2013 to more than KRW 1 trillion won in 2020. According to Open Survey’s “Webtoon Trend Report 2022,” half of men and women aged 15 to 49 have recently seen webtoons within a week of it being aired. In addition, users watch an average of 9.6 webtoons for an average of 4.6 days a week. Currently, more than one in three webtoon users said they would watch as many as possible of the webtoons made into movies, and about 94% of webtoon users said they could better appreciate the power of the content since they were familiar with the original webtoons.
In fact, from <Along with the Gods>, <Itaewon Class>, and <What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?> to <All of Us are Dead>, <Business Proposal>, and <Yumi’s Cells> all were dramatized based on webtoons and gained tremendous popularity. According to Top10Netflix.com, which aggregates weekly cumulative viewing times of Netflix content, <All of Us are Dead> recorded 124.79 million cumulative views in the first week of its release, topping the Netflix Top 10 English and non-English TV series. Likewise, <Business Proposal> was also loved by Netflix in various regions from South America to Africa, Oceania, and Asia, making the top 10 in the non-English TV category for 13 consecutive weeks from March. Finally, Naver's webtoon TVing original <Yumi’s Cells> led to a 60% increase in the number of TVing paid subscribers in a week, showing all-time popularity among TVing original dramas. Thanks to this, the process of turning webtoons into dramas or movies is continuing internationally beyond Korea. In Japan, <Roppongi Class>, a remake of Kakao Corp.’s original webtoon <Itaewon Class>, is being aired on Japanese TV Asahi. Likewise, Korea’s <Only I Level Up> webtoon will also be animated in Japan. In addition, it was found that overseas production companies, such as those in the United States and France, are also very interested in content such as webtoons and novels in Korea. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, “Korea is very important to Netflix, and we can’t talk about entertainment around the world without mentioning Korea.”
Then, why are secondary creations based on webtoons and novels so popular? Also, what is the secret to the success of dramas based on webtoons? According to the previous Webtoon Trend Report 2022, factors to consider in the success of real-life webtoons include the original story, setting of the original character (personality, job, situation, etc.), appearance/visual of the original character, visuals beauty/visual atmosphere similar to the original picture, volume/development speed/pace of the original story (age, year, season, etc.), and setting or spatial background (country, city, etc.). At this time, 77% of the respondents said that the synchro rate with the original webtoon should be high when creating a drama, and users added that the most important thing is whether the contents of the original story are reflected well. In addition, women and teenagers made up a relatively high portion of those saying that the appearance/visual impression of the original character should be pleasing. Therefore, it can be seen that it is important to create a lively story without distorting the original webtoon. Along with this, the method of expressing the original work through the aforementioned works is also drawing attention.
<Business Proposal>, which was aired earlier this year and became very popular, was also produced based on a webtoon that was serialized on Kakaopage. The drama tells the story of an office romance in which Shin Ha-ri, attends a company meeting in the place of her friend, and meets the company’s president Kang Tae-moo. She tries to hide her identity, but rather gets involved with the president. At first, there was an opinion that the story of a rich man and an ordinary woman falling in love was obvious, but <Business Proposal> provided a different kind of fun in a way that emphasized the charm of the original webtoon. It captures the webtoon’s pictorial style in the drama and develops the story in the play. In the actual scene of Kang Tae-moo’s appearance in the first episode, the drama clearly reveals that the drama is based on the webtoon, through the technique of transitioning from animated drawings to normal filming. In addition, in the scene where Shin Ha-ri talks with her friend Jin Young-seo, the drama comically expresses the past event that they are talking about by inserting a webtoon picture in a speech bubble. It also showed boring stories in the form of plays using humorous gestures and speech, allowing viewers to appreciate the work in a variety of ways.
<Yumi’s Cells> is a webtoon that tells the story of the main character, Yumi, and the cells that move busily in her head. The series began in 2015 and was completed after a five-year and seven-month journey. After the webtoon was confirmed to be dramatized, Season 1 aired last year, and Season 2 in June this year. As readers can be seen from the planning intention, the drama <Yumi’s Cells> was produced in a format that combines live-action and 3D animation, showing the charm of the original webtoon. The characteristic of webtoons is that the story progresses in a fun way by expressing Yumi’s thoughts with animated brain cells such as the sense cell, the sensibility cell, the worry cell, the love cell, and the fashion cell in her head. Therefore, in webtoons, the cells were described as round and cute unlike Yumi in reality, so people were initially concerned about how to express them, and there was also a reaction that it was unfamiliar to incorporate animation into dramas watched by adults. Rockers’ animation director Yoon Joon-sang, who produced <Yumi’s Cells>, also said that connecting the emotions of dramas and animations was definitely a challenge, and that he thought it would be a new and interesting work. Contrary to concerns, however, the drama was able to gain sympathy from many people through the character design being very similar to the original cell character, movements that delicately express the situation of the cells, details such as lighting and color, and psychological descriptions of the main characters through the cells. In addition, the drama <Yumi’s Cells> attracted a lot of popularity by focusing on the main character, “Yumi,” rather than focusing on the characters’ love affairs, and delivering a message that “the main character of each person’s life should be the person herself.”
The two works introduced earlier showed a new path to the second creation by utilizing the original works in various ways such as the webtoon’s drawing style and animation, and adding the charm of the drama itself. In particular, it seems to have responded very well to the viewers’ demand that the synchronization with the original should be high. Until now, there have been continuous attempts to dramatize popular webtoons. However, most production companies focused more on embodying the original work in reality. As a result, unlike webtoons that can freely express infinite imaginations, there was a difference from dramas that were constrained by time and space. Therefore, neither readers who had previously watched webtoons nor viewers who were newly exposed to dramas could be satisfied. And so, the live-action works that go beyond making the original work similar, and create a new story in then, are bound to be welcoming to everyone.
Then, why do dramas or movies, which are secondary creations that undergo more trial and error than expected, constantly appear? Heo Jae-eun, a representative of the cartoon story industry team at the Korea Creative Content Agency, said, “It is difficult to find materials that are as good as webtoons to develop into other contents.” He added that webtoons are very easy to make into videos because the pictures and texts of the compartment itself function like a storyboard. Above all, it is also a great advantage that they are targeting different generations spanning from people in their teens to those in their 30s. In addition, it is easy to see how many recommendations and shares are made for each episode of the webtoons that are serialized every week. Likewise, it is easy to get quick feedback by looking at the public’s reactions, because comments with criticism and praise pour in every week. For this reason, the movement to create secondary content such as dramas, movies, and games based on webtoons is bound to be a popular option.
Interestingly, this phenomenon it is not just active in filming webtoons. Recently, more and more attempts are being made to create box office dramas and animations again as webtoons or web novels. The drama <Extraordinary Attorney Woo>, which is gaining popularity with a 15% viewer rating last week, also started serialization on Naver Webtoon. In addition, readers can find new dramas such as <Good Doctor> and <Lovers of the Red Sky> through webtoons, and you can continue to see more works such as <The Signal> and <Be Melodramatic> through webtoons. In the case of <Our Beloved Summer>, which ended in January this year, dramas and webtoons were planned and produced at the same time, attracting fans and viewers in various ways. Just as HYBE Co.’s BTS and Naver Webtoon collaborated to produce webtoons with new stories, there will be endless areas where viewers can meet webtoons such as movies, dramas, games, and K-pop. This CBT reporter hopes that the charm of the content will deepen through webtoons that people can easily access.
By Kim Ji-soo l firstname.lastname@example.org