Art History

Webtoons: The Modern Manhwa?

You may have heard about, or perhaps even read some webtoons or manhwa, but how much do you know about their origins? Webtoons have been making a big impact in recent years, and manhwa has both an interesting and sad history – read on to find out more!

What are Manhwa?
만화를 뭐예요?

©Photo by Inspire Me Korea, 13.10.2018,


Manwha (만화) are printed comics, similar to manga, that have been a beloved form of entertainment in Korea for a long time – but manhwa haven’t had an easy life. Despite being popular in the 1980’s and early 90’s, manhwa were eventually banned for ‘promoting violence‘ and being ‘harmful to children‘ – this not only had a deep impact on youths at that time, but it also severely crippled the manhwa industry.

Many Korean adults can recall memories of their favourite comics being confiscated, thrown away and even burned by their parents or teachers – possibly in an attempt to shift their focus to a more academic genre rather than the untoward and increasingly unfavourable milieu provided by the humble comic.

But despite the ‘comic crash’ of the 90’s, manhwa and manhwaga (만화가), or authors, found a way to reestablish themselves in Korean culture once more – by moving from manhwa to webtoons.


What are Webtoons?
웹툰을 뭐예요?

©12 D-Boys, Photo by Naver Webtoon, 13.10.2018, 


With the establishment of the Internet in the early 2000’s, online comics – or Webtoons (웹툰) – slowly began to take the place of printed comics due to the fact that they were free and easier to access than traditional manhwa. Major websites such as Daum and Naver have dedicated much of their online platforms to webtoons, which has increased readership both in Korea and internationally.

Since they can be easily accessed through online sources, webtoons have begun to take over the already struggling manhwa industry. Every day, new artists and authors from all over the world are sharing their comics on different websites – gaining thousands of international readers and supporters who eagerly await the next chapters and updates of their favourite webtoons.

Although the advances of webtoons have had many benefits, such as giving female authors and comic artists a chance to break into a heavily male-dominated industry, there are still some downsides – one of these is that as webtoons rise in popularity, traditional printed manhwa and their authors die out.


©Photo by Inspire Me Korea, 15.10.2018,


However, despite the boom of the webtoon industry, printed comics and manhwa have found a way to remain in modern Korean culture. Most of this is thanks to Manhwa Cafes (만화 카페) which provide comfortable places where comic lovers, or even just curious travellers, can rest up and read one of the hundreds of manhwa available!


Feature Image Source: ©Photo by Inspire Me Korea, 13.10.2018,

Claudia Deborah (이보라)

Local book dealer by day - goblin writer by night. Always looking for ways to include obscure SHINee references in my articles.



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