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The history of Korean animation, began with Japanese and American characters dominating the industry. The first sound animated character was created in 1936. The first Korean animation studio opened in Pyongyang in 1948. The first feature-length animated character appeared in 1967. Dooly the Little Dinosaur revolutionized the character market in 1987. As animation characters specific to Korea appeared, the Korean character market continued to grow. Since then, Korean character franchises have even exported their characters to other countries.


Tayo bus 'Gani'
Tayo bus 'Rudolph'

According to records, the first sound animated character was 'Gaekkum' (개꿈), who was created in 1936. Before the division of the two Koreas, the Pyongyang animation study opened in 1948. In the same year, the north region of the parallel 38th became a communist republic.[1]

South Korea

Main article: South Korean animation

Before the 1960s, Korean animation only existed for commercial advertising. Mun Dalbu created a successful animated commercial for Lucky Toothpaste, broadcast on HLKZ TV in 1956.[1] After that, animation was widely used in Korean advertising. Shin Dong-hun and his apprentice Nelson Shin are the main animators in this period, using limited techniques due to the political situation and lack of animation schools.[1]

Gaemi Wa Bechangi (The Ant and the Grasshopper) made by animators Jeong Do-bin, Han Seong-hak and Park Young-il, was the first independent animation film in the country. First animated feature, Hong Gil-dong [ko] (홍길동), was produced by Segi Company and animated by Shin Dong-heon in 1967. Shin did another animated film, Hoppie and Chadolbawee (1967), but as it didn’t get the same success, Shin quitted animation.[1]

In 1987, Dooly the Little Dinosaur first aired as a six-part TV show, with another seven parts airing in 1988. In 1995, Kim Soo-jung, its creator, established a company named 'Dooly World' and went into the character design industry.[2] The following year, the animated movie 'Dooly the Little Dinosaur' was released. In the 30 years since Dooly the Little Dinosaur launched, its related market generated 2–3 billion won per year (about 1.7–2.7 million dollars as of July 2018). This paved the way for the character market in Korea.[3]

In 2003, Pororo the Little Penguin (뽀롱뽀롱 뽀로로) aired on EBS and became the new representation of Korean animation characters. Pororo aired in 127 countries around the world and was the first domestic animation to make a contract with Walt Disney Animation Studios directly. It was estimated that its brand value was worth 850 billion (equivalent to ₩892.76 billion or US$789.76 million in 2017)[4] and its economic impact amounted to 5.7 trillion (equivalent to ₩5.99 trillion or US$5.3 billion in 2017)[4] 5.7 trillion won in 2013.[5]

As of 2015, many other domestic Korean animations have gained popularity, such as Tobot (변신자동차 또봇), Larva (라바), and Tayo the Little Bus (꼬마버스 타요).[6]

The animated Larva recorded 10 billion (equivalent to ₩10.5 billion or US$9.29 million in 2017)[4] in sales in 2013. In addition, domestic characters such as Tayo the Little Bus have earned considerable sales due to the support of young children.[7]

North Korea

Main article: North Korean animation

From 1948 until the 1980s, the Pyongyang animation studio produced more than two hundred films. In the 1980s, the studio employed around six hundred workers, and twenty animation directors.[1] Aside from local productions, the SEK Studio (North Korea's primary animation producer) has been providing animation services for foreign clients in Italy, Spain, France, China, Russia, Japan and indirectly for the United States.[8]

Transition in character production methods

In the 1980s–1990s, cartoon characters expanded mainly because comic books were popular.[9]

Between 2000 and 2010, Flash characters became prevalent in Korea because, they facilitated production. Scaling does not affect quality and the files are much smaller, which increases speed of transmission. [10]

Later in the decade, 3D animations were mainly done with 3D STUDIO MAX or MAYA software[11] and their production costs are much greater than for 2D Flash animations.[12][13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bendazzi, Giannalberto (2016). Animation : a world history. Volume II, The birth of a style-the three markets. Boca Raton, FL. ISBN 978-1-317-51991-1. OCLC 930331668.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Official blog (2013-04-19). "황글알을 낳는 거위! 떠오르는 '한국 캐릭터 산업'" [The golden goose! Growing Korean character industries]. Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
  3. ^ No, Jawoon (2013-05-01). "'둘리' 이후 30년…캐릭터 시장 규모 8조원 육박'" [30 years after 'Dooly'… The size of Character market is closing in upon 8 trillion won]. Chosun Biz.
  4. ^ a b c 1906 to 1911: Williamson J. (1999), Nominal Wage, Cost of Living, Real Wage and Land Rent Data for Korea 1906-1939 1912 to 1939: Mizoguchi, T. (1972). Consumer Prices and Real Wages in Taiwan and Korea Under Japanese Rule. Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, 13(1), 40-56. Retrieved May 21, 2021. Afterwards, consumer price index from Statistics Korea. Consumer Price Index by year. Retrieved 3 April 2018
  5. ^ Choi, Yonghyeok (2014-05-02). "뽀로로는 왜 세계적 캐릭터가 됐을까" [Why Pororo can be world wide character]. Business Post.
  6. ^ Lee, Yoonjung (2015-08-13). "'뽀로로'…130개국 수출 경제효과 6조 육박" ['Pororo'…Export for 130 countries around the world]. E daily.
  7. ^ No, Jawoon (2013-05-01). "'둘리' 이후 30년…캐릭터 시장 규모 8조원 육박'" [30 years after 'Dooly'… The size of Character market is closing in upon 8 trillion won]. Chosun Biz.
  8. ^ "북한 애니메이션 산업 육성, 해외진출 확대 전망-북한정보-kotra 해외시장뉴스". 2018-06-22. Archived from the original on 2018-06-22. Retrieved 2021-06-22.
  9. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.1 Period of Published Cartoon Characters (1980s~1990s).((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.2 Period of Two-Dimensional Flash Animated Characters (The Early 2000s).((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ OSMU is a kind of sales strategy that develops contents service on various media such as book, movie and game. It is referred to as Media franchise in America and Media mix in Japan.
  12. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, Hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.3. Period of Three-dimensional Animation Characters (The Mid-2000s).((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3. Classification of Domestically-produced Characters Based on Media Formats.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)