Webtoon Artists – the mothers of Korean Drama?

I remember back in my senior year of high school, me and my friends would run to the library and just head to the Japanese manga section, and binge-read.

I used to love reading comics, I still kind of do, but not as much as I did back then- I enjoy watching them now.

Anyways, speaking of comics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Webtoon. If you haven’t Webtoon is comic publishing portal that’s launched by Naver Corporation in South Korea in 2004. The platform is called Naver Webtoon in Korean, LINE Manga in Japanese, both Dongman Manhua and Webtoon in Chinese, and simply Webtoon in English, French, Indonesian, Spanish, Thai, and German. Think of Webtoon like Crunchyroll except it’s for comics instead of anime.

But Webtoon isn’t my main focus for today’s post and instead, it’s to discuss and answer the question: are webtoon artists screenwriters of Korean dramas?

2018 was a special year for Webtoon because many Korean dramas were adapted from them: Itaewon Class, True Beauty, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?, are just to name a few.

But why? Are screenwriters running out of original ideas?

Honestly, I don’t think so.

I think it’s because Korean dramas have a huge fan base and have been resonating well with international and domestic viewers, thanks to combination of pandemic-induced boredom and the ready availability of shows on streaming sites such as Netflix. While we are familiar with the latest shows such as Mystic Pop-Up Bar and Itaewon Class, many are unaware that these Korean dramas were actually adapted from popular webtoons.

People are the lifeblood of any business, just like Webtoons and Korean dramas needs people to gain popularity. Building relationships with people fosters loyalty. As a result, loyalty has the potential to increase profits. An excellent way to start building relationships with people who share similar interests is by developing a fan base. Without a fan base, there would be no public activity which leads to no audience growth and profit which results in disappointment and quitting.

Hence why a fan base is crucial.

Which answers our question: are Webtoon artists screenwriters of Korean dramas?

Strategically, I think it’s smart that directors and producers are recreating Webtoons into dramas. It benefits the original artist by promoting their creation and also gives the drama a fan base to start out with, gaining popularity so much faster, instead of starting from the very bottom. It’s the best of both worlds, they both profit off of each other.

In order to give recognition to the original writers behind these exceptional storylines, here’s a few Korean dramas that were adapted from webtoons. And if you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms after finishing one of these Korean dramas, stave off that longing by giving the original webtoons a read.

Cheese In The Trap (2016)

Genre: Romance

This 2016 drama was adapted from a Korean webtoon. Written by Soonkki, Cheese In The Trap is one of the most popular webtoon series to date and it took the writer 7 years to complete the whole thing. It spans 4 seasons, amounting to a total of 184 chapters.

After taking a gap year, Hong Seol returns to college on a scholarship and finds it puzzling that Yoo Jung, a well-off and popular student in school, starts to treat her nicely despite the hostile relationship they had a year ago. Although she has her reservations about Yoo Jung, Hong Seol agrees to go on a date with him and lands herself in a complicated relationship.

Main Cast:

  • Park Hae-jin as Yoo Jung
  • Kim Go-eun as Hong Seol
  • Seo Kang Jun as Baek In-ho
  • Lee Sung-kyung as Baek In-ha

The drama started off on the same premise as the webtoon. But since it was filmed before the author complete the entire series, the ending differs from the webtoon. And this difference got the original author to openly expressed her displeasure at the fact that the crew only checked in with her on the finalised script right before shooting the ending.

However, much like most dramas that eventually reach a resolution, the director has personally apologised for their negligence and Soonkki has since accepted his apology.

While the drama’s ending might differ from the original comic, the alternative sure comes as a bonus for those who have been following the webtoon for years. You can read the webtoon and watch the drama, and let us know which version you prefer.

My ID Is Gangnam Beauty (2018)

Genre: Romantic comedy

My ID Is Gangnam Beauty is written by Kee Maeng-kee and has garnered much attention for its focus on beauty standards in Korea and plastic surgery. 

Follow Kang Mi-rae as she tries to adapt to her new life in university after having undergone plastic surgery. She meets Do Kyung-seok, who appreciates and loves her beyond her looks.

Main Cast:

  • Im Soo-hyang as Kang Mi-rae
  • Cha Eun-woo as Do Kyung-seok
  • Jo Woo-ri as Hyun Soo-ah
  • Kwak Dong-yeon as Yeon Woo-young

The drama adaptation spices things up a little by adding more characters, as well as scenes that weren’t in the webtoon. 

Mi-rae’s personal thoughts were actually more expressive in the comic as compared to her reserved in the drama. But that’s understandable as a two-dimensional comic has to convey emotions via speech bubbles, while a live-action drama can express that through actions. 

The original writer stated that she was very grateful that Im Soo-hyang took up the role, as plastic surgery is still a touchy subject despite its popularity.

Love Alarm (2019)

Love Alarm is adapted from a webtoon known as Ringing If You Like (Joahamyeon Ullineun) by Chon Kye-young. The webtoon has its own YouTube channel – a few chapters have been uploaded as videos and translated into English and Spanish for international readers to enjoy.

This comic revolves around an app called Joalarm, which allows people to know if an admirer is within a 10-metre radius. As the female lead, Jo-jo,goes about using the app, she finds herself caught in a love triangle involving two best friends: Hwang Sun-oh and Lee Hye-young.

Main Cast:

  • Kim So-hyun as Kim Jo-jo
  • Song Kang as Hwang Sun-oh
  • Jung Ga-ram as Lee Hye-young

While the drama has stayed true to the original plot, it has actually led to the creation of a real-life app of the same name, albeit for a different purpose since we can’t sync our emotions with technology, at least for now. The app was launched in line with the drama’s promotional activities to allow fans to stay engaged and keep up with ongoing events. 

And due to it’s huge fan base and popularity, a second season has be aired on 22nd August 2020 on Netflix.

Webtoons are undeniably popular in South Korea – even celebrities spend their days catching up on webtoons. So whenever you’re done watching the Korean dramas on this list, give the original webtoons a read. Who knows, you and your oppa may be reading the same thing at the same time!

Xoxo, Messycafe.

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