The webtoon series sprung up like mushrooms after the rain thanks to the craze of Solo Leveling that brought the publishing industry back to its heyday in the land of kimchi.
The growing demand for digital works has led to an increase in sales of their printed books, The Korea Times reported.
The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) surveyed 3,500 readers, ages 10 to 69, nationwide online who consume webtoons and printed comics. The results showed that 29% of respondents said they had purchased a paper version of their favorite webtoon – a 6.4% increase from 2020.
In fact, 3 of the works on the list of 10 most favorite printed comics of those surveyed this year all originated from webtoon: “Yumi’s Cells”, “Itaewon Class” and “Solo Leveling”.
One teenager participating in a focus group interview, conducted outside of an online survey, said: “I would rather have a print copy of my favorite webtoon than just read it once (online).” .
Another 20-year-old male shared: “I bought it (print book) for myself and as a gift for friends. Reading a webtoon printed on paper feels different than reading it on a phone screen.”
The survey also shows that webtoons continue to be one of the dominant forms of entertainment in Korea, as measured by how often they are read and how many people are willing to spend money on paid services.
KOCCA said the Korean webtoon industry was worth about $577 million in 2019 and is projected to grow year-over-year.
Even in Japan, the home of manga and the world’s largest digital manga market, the Korean webtoon holds more than 70% of the market share, according to mobile data provider App Annie.
Some hit movies are adapted from webtoon such as Reborn Rich, Sweet Home, Business Proposal, Along with the Gods. About 70% of the most popular webtoons are romantic fantasy stories.
Among respondents, 42.9% said they watch digital cartoons at least 3 times a week – up from 37.3% in 2020. 45.7% answered that they spent money , from as little as 1,000 won ($0.76) to over 100,000 won per month, for charge-per-view or sneak peek episodes.
With more than 100 webtoons having achieved varying degrees of success over the past decade, 58.5% of survey respondents said they viewed web-sourced content or printed comics.
Their most popular webtoon adaptation is TV series with 47.4%, followed by movies with 44.7%.
One of the interviewees said that watching and discovering how the dramas interpret the original webtoon was an enjoyable experience.
But while web comics coming to the screen has become the norm, their potential expansion into the realm of the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) remains questionable.
Of those, 31.5% say they have no intention of viewing webtoon-inspired content on the metaverse, and 33.9% say they will. The negative response rate was even higher for webtoon-inspired NFTs, at 45.4% not interested in consuming them.