Webtoons (Korean웹툰) are a type of digital comic that originated in South Korea usually meant to be read on smartphones. Webtoons may be referred to as manhwa — a term used to characterize Korean comics.

While webtoons were mostly unknown outside of the country during their inception, there has been a surge in popularity internationally thanks in great part to most manhwa being read on smartphones.[1] As digital manhwa have emerged as a popular medium, print publication of manhwa has decreased.[citation needed] The amount of material published in webtoon form has now reached an equal amount as that published offline.[2]


Webtoons usually feature a couple of common traits: each episode is published on one long, vertical strip (making use of an infinite canvas rather than multiple pages so that it is easier to read on a smartphone or computer); unlike manhwa in general, they will most likely be in color rather than black-and-white since they are rarely published in physical form; and some will feature music and animations that play during each chapter. In the case of South Korea, there are also different censorship laws for materials published online than in print which has led to more manhwa that is pornographic in nature being produced and published as webtoons.[citation needed]

Revenue model

Like other online publications, there are a variety of payment models used for webtoons. Some offer a limited set of chapters for free and charge for the rest. Others allow only a certain number of chapters to be read per day without payment.[citation needed]

Creators of webtoons can earn money from ads displayed on their series. Until 2019, amateur creators could earn money from the credit that was given by their fans. The money that the pro and amateur creators receive depends on the page view.[3]

Origins and history

The Korean web portal Daum created a webtoon service known as Daum Webtoon in 2003 and was later followed by Naver with the launch of Naver Webtoon in 2004.[4] These services regularly release webtoons that are available for free. According to David Welsh of Bloomberg, comics account for a quarter of all book sales in South Korea, while more than 3 million Korean users paid to access online manhwa and 10 million users read free webtoons.[5]

As of July 2014, Naver had published 520 webtoons while Daum had published 434. Since the early 2010s, services such as TappyToon and Spottoon have begun to officially translate webtoons into English while some Korean publishers like Lezhin, Toomics, and TopToon have begun to self translate their works.[6][7][8] Examples of popular webtoons that have been translated into English are Lookism, Untouchable, Yumi's Cells, The Sound of Heart, Tales of the Unusual, The Gamer, The God of High School, Girls of the Wild's, Noblesse, and Tower of God. In recent years, these webtoons have been gaining popularity in Western markets, rivalling Japanese manga.[9]

In the past, it was divided into two ratings: All (webtoon suitable for all ages) and 18 (No one under 18 is allowed to read this webtoon). From May 2019, the webtoon rating system was implemented. It is said that 10 platforms including Naver and Daum will participate. The ratings are expected to be △ All △ 12 years or older △ 15 years or older △ 19 years old (18 years old) or older.[10]

Generation Zero

Layout of an early webtoon. Buttons allow turning the page.
Layout of an early webtoon. Buttons allow turning the page.

The earliest webtoons were scanned original comics uploaded onto the Internet, usually formatted on a one-page layout.[citation needed]

First generation

With the development of technology, authors were able to utilize flash animation effects.[citation needed]

Second generation

An example of a second generation webtoon.
An example of a second generation webtoon.

Enhanced preloading enabled later authors to adopt a vertical layout with scrolling. In contrast to comics with a dense panel composition, scrolling brings new panels into view. This makes webtoons suitable for gradual and continuous representation, allowing webtoon reading to become more fluid.[11]

Third generation

A scene from the webtoon Tower of God, a third-generation webtoon
A scene from the webtoon Tower of God, a third-generation webtoon
An example of a modern Korean webtoon viewed through a webtoon viewing interface (Amazing Rumor by Jang Yi in Daum Webtoon)
An example of a modern Korean webtoon viewed through a webtoon viewing interface (Amazing Rumor by Jang Yi in Daum Webtoon)

With the advent of the smartphone and tablet, webtoons have also migrated to new platforms such as apps. There have also been sounds introduced to imply further expressions and tones, as well as interactive motions to create excitement and bring attention to certain objects for the viewers.[12]

Prior to 2014, most webtoons were only available in English through unofficial fan translations. In July 2014, Naver subsidiary Line began publication of translations of popular webtoons to English via the WEBTOON service.[13][14]


The market for webtoons and their derivatives is currently valued at around KR₩420 billion (US$368 million).[15]

Although digital comics are increasingly popular, print publication remains the primary means of comic retail. Some publishers offer online content and print content simultaneously.[16]

Webtoons have been taken as source material by a number of different mediums, including film and television; one of the earliest examples of this was 'Tazza, a 2006 film based on the comic by Huh Young-man. This work was serialized in the Sports Chosun and garnered over 100 million homepage views, later being adapted into two films. (Tazza: The High Rollers, Tazza: The Hidden Card), and one television series (Tazza (TV series)). Another of Huh's works, Sikgaek (Le Grand Chef), was published in the Dong-a Ilbo for five years and sold 540,000 copies in paperback version.

Naver's WEBTOON service, launched in 2014, is now the biggest webtoon platform in Korea. According to Naver, it reaches over 6.2 million daily users. The free WEBTOON translation service has allowed webtoons to form part of the global Korean Wave.[17]

They also collaborate with movies.[18]

Outside of South Korea

The webtoon format has also expanded to other countries with many different distributors offering original and translated webtoons for users to read as well as offering platforms for anyone to upload their own webtoons.

Mainland China and Taiwan

In mainland China and Taiwan, webtoons along with web manhua have seen an increase in production and popularity since they are rarely published and just like in South Korea, have resulted in a resurgence and interest in the manhua industry as more content is consumed digitally. Almost all of the big webtoon portals in China are offered by the big internet companies in the country while in Taiwan the bigger webtoon publishers outside of the country like Comico, Toomics, and WEBTOON are more popular since their services are available there.[19]


Webtoons in Japan have not caught on as well as in other countries mainly due to the traditional manga industry still being the main way in which manga gets released and published. Even web manga, which have seen a recent rise in popularity, get released in black-and-white and not color like in Korea or China despite being released digitally.[20] Despite this, there have been some strides to penetrate the Japanese market and slowly more mangaka are trying out the webtoon format to release their titles.[21] Lezhin, Comico, Naver, Line, and Kakao offer webtoon portals with translated works for Japanese readers. Comico, one of the biggest webtoon publishers in the world, was actually created by the Japanese subsidiary of NHN Entertainment, NHN Japan. To date, there are only two webtoon portals that offer original Japanese webtoons, Comico and Naver (under the name XOY 2017–2018 to 2019). All XOY webtoons have been integrated onto Line Manga a Japanese Manga service while XOY was up until its demise in January 2019.[22] Kakao has also had success in the Japanese market by offering both licensed manga and translated Korean webtoons with their service, Piccoma. This has been credited to the webtoon pay model that the service implements where some chapters are offered for free for a short period of time.[23] Kakao Japan has announced that it will start offering original Japanese, Korean, and Chinese webtoons for Piccoma in the summer of 2018.[24]


In India, webtoons have grown into popularity.[25] With the global launch of LINE Webtoon by NAVER Corporation in 2014, it became the first go to app that introduced webtoon culture in India.[26] Kross Komics launched the first dedicated Indian webtoon portal in 2020 targeting domestic audience offering 40 translated South Korean titles in English, Hindi and Telugu language. It is also planning to introduce content from Chinese and Japanese market.[25][27] Upon its official mobile app release on 7 December 2019, it was downloaded 200,000 times on Google Play.[25] As of July 2021, it registered 1.1 million monthly active uses and 3.5 million app downloads.[28] Kross Komics was founded in May 2019 and is headquartered in Seoul with additional offices in Mumbai and Los Angeles. It mainly targets the 15-24 age group of people especially females and supports Korean, Indian webtoon content creators.[29][30] Popularity of digital comics is now encouraging Indian publishers such as Graphic India to launch their own service called Toonsutra in the market.[31][32] Kakao Entertainment acquired Kross Komics in 2020.[33] In 2021, Kakao Entertainment is planning to enter Indian market with its own webtoon platform.[34]

Southeast Asia

Indonesia and Thailand have become big markets for the webtoon industry with both Naver (under WEBTOON) and Comico offering both original webtoons and fully translated titles in the two countries. Some webtoons made in Indonesia and Thailand have even been translated and published outside of the countries like Teen Mom and Eggnoid. Vietnam launched its first webtoon portal, Vinatoon, offering translated titles from Daum Webtoon and Mr. Blue with the intention of opening up another market.[35]

Western countries

Many of the webtoon publishers have had success in penetrating markets outside of Asia with the biggest success being the United States and other English speaking countries.[36] Lezhin, Toomics, and Naver are the only big publishers who translate their own titles rather than licensing them out and Naver (under the Line brand) even offers the ability for fan translations to be offered in different languages. TopToon's TopToonPlus service, launched in July 2021, was another global launch by a Korean webtoon company for their global fans. In its first month of service, it gained over 200,000 subscribers.[8] Spottoon, TappyToon, and Manta Comics offer translated licensed works from various publishers including KToon, Bomtoon, Foxtoon, and many more. Besides just the consumption of translated works, there has also been a rise in the creation of original non-Asian webtoons thanks in part to sites like Tapas and WEBTOON offering the ability for anyone to submit their own work.[37] In the beginning, many of the webtoons created outside of Asia tended to just be webcomics released in the webtoon format but over time, more artists have released more titles that are full-fledged comics rather than reformatted webcomics.

Delitoon is another platform only for French people based in France, providing translated licensed works mainly from Korean content providers.

Adaptations of webtoons

Medium Titles
Film APT (아파트) (2006)

Dasepo Naughty Girls (다세포 소녀) (2006)

Tazza: The High Rollers (타짜) (2006)

Le Grand Chef (식객) (2007)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화) (2008)

BA:BO (바보) (2008)

Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle (식객 2: 김치 전쟁) (2010)

Moss (이끼) (2010)

Pained (통증) (2011)

Late Blossom (그대를 사랑합니다) (2011)

The Neighbor (이웃사람) (2012)

26 Years (26년) (2012)

The Five (더 파이브) (2013)

Fists of Legend (전설의 주먹) (2013)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) (2013)

Fashion King (패션왕) (2014)

Tazza: The Hidden Card (타짜: 신의 손) (2014)

Inside Men (내부자들) (2015)

ReLIFE (リライフ) (2017)

The Chase (반드시 잡는다) (2017)

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (신과 함께-죄와 벌) (2017)

Steel Rain (강철비) (2017)

Real (리얼) (2017)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈 인더 트랩) (2018)

Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days (신과 함께-인과 연) (2018)

Eggnoid (2019)

Beauty Water (기기괴괴: 성형수) (2020)

Television The Great Catsby (위대한 개츠비) (2007)

Gourmet (식객) (2008)

Mary Stayed Out All Night (매리는 외박중) (2010)

Aridong's Last Cowboy (아리동 라스트 카우보이) (2010)

Always Low Prices Cheollima Mart (쌉니다 천리마 마트) (2010)

Bridal Mask (각시탈) (2012)

Dr. Frost (닥터 프로스트) (2014)

Misaeng (미생) (2014)

A Girl Who Sees Smells (냄새를 보는 소녀) (2015)

Orange Marmalade (오렌지 마말레이드) (2015)

Songgot: The Piercer (송곳) (2015)

Hogu's Love (호구의 사랑) (2015)

Hyde Jekyll, Me (하이드 지킬, 나) (2015)

Imaginary Cat (상상고양이) (2015)

Hope: Kitai Zero no Shinnyu Shain (HOPE〜期待ゼロの新入社員〜) (2016)

Cheese in the Trap (치즈인더트랩) (2016)

Lucky Romance (운빨로맨스) (2016)

Hey Ghost, Let's Fight (싸우자 귀신아) (2016)

The Man Living in Our House (우리집에 사는 남자) (2016)

The Sound of Your Heart (마음의 소리) (2017)

Save Me (구해줘) (2017)

Confession Couple (고백부부) (2017)

Avengers Social Club (부암동 복수자들) (2017)

Feel Good to Die (죽어도 좋아) (2018)

What's Wrong with Secretary Kim (김비서가 왜 그럴까) (2018)

Gangnam Beauty (내 아이디는 강남미인) (2018)

Your House Helper (당신의 하우스헬퍼) (2018)

Clean with Passion for Now (일단 뜨겁게 청소하라!!) (2018)

The Sound of Your Heart - Reboot (마음의 소리: Reboot) (2018)

Tale of Fairy (계룡선녀전) (2018)

Item (아이템) (2019)

Her Private Life (누나팬닷컴) (2019)

Love Alarm (좋아하면 울리는) (2019)

Hell Is Other People (타인은 지옥이다) (2019)

Pegasus Market (쌉니다 천리마마트) (2019)

Extraordinary You (어쩌다 발견한 하루) (2019)

The Tale of Nokdu (조선로코 녹두전) (2019)

Itaewon Class (이태원 클라쓰) (2020)

Memorist (메모리스트) (2020)

Welcome (어서와) (2020)

Rugal (루갈) (2020)

How to Buy a Friend (계약우정) (2020)

Mystic Pop-up Bar (쌍갑포차) (2020)

Dinner Mate (저녁 같이 드실래요?) (2020)

Backstreet Rookie (편의점샛별이) (2020)

Marry Me! (マリーミー!) (2020)

Amanza (아만자) (2020)

No, Thank You (며느라기) (2020)

True Beauty (2020)

Sweet Home (스위트홈) (2020)

How to Be Thirty (아직 낫서른) (2021)

Taxi Driver (모범택시) (2021)

Imitation (이미테이션) (2021)

All of Us Are Dead (지금 우리 학교는) (2021)

Hellbound (지옥) (2021)

D.P. (D.P.) (2021)

Navillera (2021)

My Roommate Is a Gumiho (간 떨어지는 동거) (2021)[38]

Nevertheless (알고있지만,) (2021)[39]

Yumi's Cells (유미의 세포들) (2021)[38]

Moving (무빙) (2022)[40]

I don't want to do anything (아무것도 하고 싶지 않아)[41]

Game Berkanix (베르카닉스) (2009)

Tower of God (신의 탑) (2013)

The God of High School (갓 오브 하이스쿨) (2015)

The Sound of Heart (마음의소리) (2016)

Denma with NAVER WEBTOON (덴마) (2016)

Noblesse with NAVER WEBTOON (노블레스) (2017)

Densinma with NAVER WEBTOON (덴마+신도림+마왕이 되는 중2야) (2019)

Gaus Electronics with NAVER WEBTOON (가우스전자) (2019)

Animated series Welcome to Convenience Store (와라! 편의점) (2012)

Story of Miho (미호이야기)

A Simple Thinking About Blood Type (혈액형에 관한 간단한 고찰) (2013)

Notjima Jeongshinjul (놓지마 정신줄) (2014)

Noblesse (노블레스: 파멸의 시작) (2015)

ReLIFE (リライフ) (2016)

Nanbaka (ナンバカ) (2016)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie (ネト充のススメ) (2017)

How to Keep a Mummy (ミイラの飼い方) (2018)

The God of High School (2020)

Tower of God (2020)

Noblesse (2020)

Theatre The Great Catsby (위대한 개츠비) (2007)

BA:BO (바보)

Hello, Schoolgirl (순정만화)

Brand/ Merchandise Marine Blues (마린블루스)

Welcome to Convenience Store (와라! 편의점)

The Sock Monster (양말 도깨비)

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (어제, 오늘 그리고 내일)

ONA Momokuri (ももくり) (2015)

Noblesse: Awakening (노블레스: Awakening) (2016)

The Sound of Heart (마음의 소리) (2018)

Tales of the Unusual (기기괴괴) (2019)

My Giant Nerd Boyfriend (2019)[42]

Let's Play (2019)[43]

See also


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