Hooked on Ok-drama or Ok-pop? Now, dive into Korean digital comics or Ok-webtoons in Indian languages

Written by ayunda · 3 min read >
Addicted to K-drama or K-pop? Now, dive into Korean digital comics or K-webtoons in Indian languages

After K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Beauty, Korean digital comics are finding a stronghold in India as translations into regional languages ​​hit the market

Nineteen-year-old Prathyusha G credits her interest in everything to K- the Korean face masks she stumbled upon in a local store. While K-Beauty and fashion trends play groundbreaking roles, K-Pop – more precisely the boy band BTS – forms the core of their love. Then Prathyusha discovered K-webtoons, Korean digital comics made specifically for smartphones.

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Now she’s collecting digital episodes to read on her phone over the holidays. Another loyal reader, 16-year-old Subiksha says she likes Korean webtoons “much better” than Indian movies or TV shows. She got addicted in November 2020 and hasn’t looked back since.

While the Korean culture wave or Hallyu has gained momentum in recent years, it was the bans that led to a rush by Indians for Korean comics. In the form of webtoons available in regional languages, they are more accessible than ever. In India, Kross Comics pioneered the entry of this format into the Indian market through its app, on which titles – sometimes episodically – can be accessed for free.

One page from the title

Manhwa, as K-Comics are commonly known in South Korea, was created in the 1920s when Korea was under Japanese occupation. Manhwa, an offshoot of cultural imitation, quickly became a cousin of the more popular Japanese cartoons and comics, manga. In India, Manga has had a strong and loyal fan base for many years, while manhwa, the newest member, is often accessed digitally. In South Korea, the Webtoons format that emerged in the early 2000s is now part of a billion dollar market.

A gradual boom

“Hallyu started out in Japan in the early 2000s when Korean dramas became popular. Since then, K-Dramas have found a new audience in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan … In 2015 in particular, I was surprised in India that the wave had not yet started despite the blatant similarities in culture, “says Hyunwoo Thomas Kim, Co-founder of Kross Comics based in Seoul. Around 2019 the scene changed. By then, BTS was on its way to becoming a household name in India as well.

“That’s when I realized that K-Pop and K-Drama were already there on a large scale. What could be next I started showing some of the digital comics to Indian friends and the interest was palpable. From a storytelling perspective, K-Dramas and Korean webtoons are very similar, ”says Kim.

An illustration from the title

They launched about 100 titles in December 2019 and have been growing rapidly ever since. Now, with the pandemic, her app has over three million downloads.

Some of them are also being adapted into K-Dramas: Kross Comics’ Webtoons, A Business Proposal is currently being converted into a serialized drama expected to be released in 2022. Similar to music and drama, webtoons also target people between the ages of 15 and 24. Readership shows that 80% of the responses come from a female audience.

“It’s very different from the comics that Indian youth are used to, like Amar Chitra Katha, which deals with mythology, superheroes and so on. We talk about love, dating, romance and just everyday life, ”says Kim. Culturally, Indians and their mid-40s Koreans may be very different in the way they think, but Gen Z audiences around the world are similar in many ways. Kim says their online social presence may be the reason for these similarities.

More importantly, the Webtoon format strikes a simple balance between image and text, with the latter mostly in the form of concise dialogues. Visualization is episodic.

Actor Kim Se-Jeong as Kang Tae Mu in the upcoming K-drama

Actor Kim Se-Jeong as Kang Tae Mu in the upcoming K-drama “A Business Proposal” | Photo credit: special agreement

Tap to read

The author of the popular web toon She Hates Me, Amadoji, 31, from Korea believes that web toons are resonating with audiences because of their digital accessibility. “Many read webtoons because most people now have smartphones. I did not expect that [the global reaction] anyway, because this work has a lot of parodies and memes that are specifically used in Korea, and the main background itself is Korea. “

Illustrations and colors also add to this appeal, especially when published in serial form, says Kim-Yeon, creator of Endless. “I start scribbling with no plans. And when I come across the face of someone I like, I start mapping out the surrounding characters by imagining their personality and background, ”she says.

Kim-Yeon recently shared her experience at a middle school in South Korea: “I was very surprised to see students who read webtoons but not comics. In this case I think there is a difference in accessibility between the two. “

Now with translations in regional Indian languages ​​like Hindi and Telugu other than English, they cut across a larger Indian population. “The response from Telugu readers was good. So we’re thinking about adding more southern languages. Our goal is to expand to at least 11 Indian languages ​​in the next few years, ”adds Kim. The average daily readership varies between 60,000 and 100,000, with 70% in English, 25% in Hindi and 5% in Telugu.

The telugu translation of the title

The telugu translation of the title “A Business Proposal” | Photo credit: special agreement

Dhanashree Kodkani, 26, had never read a Korean comic until she started translating one in Telugu in September 2019. Now she’s discouraged when a series she translates ends. Dhanashree remembers titles she started with: Que Sera Sera and The Reason Why Raeliana Ended up at the Duke’s Mansion. “As someone who has a habit of reading subtitles, I can be really terrified when a joke or a moment is lost in translation. So I’m especially careful when I do this, ”she says.

However, she sometimes finds it difficult to translate certain Korean idioms, proverbs, culture-specific jokes, trends and references to cartoon characters, films and folk tales into Telugu. “I try to use the most appropriate Indian idiom or saying so that the same emotion or context can be conveyed to our audience,” she says.

With the pandemic, preferences are also shifting. In 2021, K-Webtoons, all about positive and uplifting stories, are finding more followers. Young adults find these simple narratives in Webtoon format a welcome change.

“It’s more convenient, doesn’t cost any money when I’m ready to wait for new episodes and I don’t have to go to a store,” says Subhiksha, adding, “It’s the ideal entertainment for students like me. Everything can happen directly from my phone. “

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