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Title Korean Webtoons Win the Hearts of Turkish People
No Inquiry 118 Date 2017.08.16

In Korean society, the webtoon has already become a popular culture genre with a strong presence. The artist's imagination and details are created in a sophisticated and swift way through three versatile tools of computers, tablets and graphic programs, and immediately shared to the public. My generation, which grew reading comics in the genres of romance, martial arts, fantasy, and comedy during adolescence, quickly shifted to the world of webtoons while comic books were slowly disappearing, and now even the older generations enjoy webtoons in Korea.


The webtoon, which was born with Han Hui-jak's "Uninhabited Island" in 1996, is now riding high experiencing no restrictions on themes and expressions. In the past, young people who read comic books had neglectful and delinquent images, but nowadays, the webtoon sometimes helps release the stress of modern life, alleviates loneliness, delivers philosophical messages related to personal or community life, and even serves as a political appeal or warning sign. Not long ago, seeing one of my Korean colleagues recommending Joo Ho-min's "Along with the Gods" to others saying this webtoon series had changed his view of the world and life, I realized how strong the influence of webtoons is in Korea, which, before, never had come home to me as I lived abroad.


Then how high are the profile and popularity of Korean webtoons abroad? In Turkey where I live, mania groups are just being formed. Turks began to show interest in Korean webtoons as popular Korean TV drama series "Cheese in the Trap", which is based on webtoons, came out. Previously, the recognition that most of cartoons were Japanese imports was dominant among Turks, and Korean cartoons were primarily consumed by young ladies and girls who dreamed of a romance with a sweet and handsome guy like male characters in Korean webtoons, who are totally different from Turkish men with tough and macho images. Among these young women fans, there was a fad of collecting sweetest scenes of romance cartoon characters.

 


<A blog that has been introducing Japanese and Korean cartoons since 2013 (Source: http://koreangelsmangaekibi.blogspot.com.tr)>

 

The webtoon, which made a meteoric rise and mostly described as "a genre first attempted in Korea," is now establishing a solid foothold as a new cultural content. The male and female protagonists, who have an outward appearance as popular K-Pop artists, share a romantic love line on the screen every week. Plus, this content does not cost you money at all: a truly new world. Among the Korean webtoon series popular in Turkey at present are <Untouchable>, <Nobless>, <Que Sera, Sera> and <The Gamer> besides <Cheese in the Trap>. In the aspect of genre, not only romance, but fantasy, which has been regarded as a sort of taboo in Islamic culture, is also gaining popularity.

 

<Puzzmos, a Turkish web site where you can see Korean webtoons free of charge (Source: http://puzzmos.com)>

<A scene of "Untouchable," a Korean webtoon series translated and provided by a Turkish webtoon fan (Source: http://www.webtoons.com)>

 

The even more remarkable is that Korean webtoons are evaluated as excellent textbooks for learning Korean language and culture in Turkey. More casual than expressions in literary works and simpler than those in dramas, webtoon lines are easier to understand. The lines and scenes in each episode also well reflect the love, work, school life, and culture of today Koreans.


A Turkish citizen (pseudonym: Suji), who has worked in Ankara for several years as a Korean tutor, has used webtoons as teaching materials since early 2016. In 2013, the Korean Cultural Center in Turkey opened a course titled "Let's learn Korean with Webtoons". In addition, the King Sejong Institute (Sejong Hakdang), which is the most used by Turkish people to professionally learn Korean language or to prepare for a TOPIK test, has received a great response since creating a category of the webtoons that introduce Korea under the themes such as Korean life, food, folktales, and festivals on its web site.

 

<Korean webtoon category created on the web site of the King Sejong Institute (Source: www.sejonghakdang.org)>


The webtoon has a story line that develops relatively slowly compared to the movie and drama, so it can be enjoyed for a long time and provides visual entertainment with delicate images and diverse colors. With these advantages, the webtoon is well qualified for a Korean Wave content that can be consumed in the daily life of Turks. However, until now, only a handful of famous webtoon series produced as a drama had been translated and introduced by their fans. Other webtoons are enjoyed in Korean original versions or English versions. (※ LINE WEBTOON (webtoons.com) provides the translations of Korean and Japanese webtoons in various languages.)


In this situation, if the big webtoon channels such as Naver, Daum, Kakao, and KTOON actively make efforts to overcome these limitations, it is only a matter of time that a webtoon market bigger than the Korean drama market is formed. I look forward to the future of Korea's webtoons, which will leap towards a successful content as K-pop or K-dramas.

 

* Mina Eom, Correspondent of KOFICE in Turkey (Ankara)