Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Korean Comics?

Dear Korean,

I am a big fan of Korean manhwa [comics] such as
Cynical Orange, Angel/Demon Diary, and Chocolat. What's your opinion on manhwa? Do you have any suggestions for series? I know that most bookstores don't carry manhwa so online is the only option to purchase, but do you know of any bookstores that do actually carry manhwa?

The Reader

Dear Reader,

The Korean reads comics occasionally, but he stays strictly with the Japanese kind -- currently he is reading (very slowly) One Piece, Berserk and Battle Royale. He probably has not read Korean comics in 15 years. (And he has never heard of any titles that you listed.) But he sees a great many of them being carried in any old Barnes & Noble or Borders.

Readers, do you like Korean comics? Any thoughts?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. I used to read Goong a long ago. I need to finish the series.

  2. Haha, the only Korean comic that I'm aware of is 고우영's 삼국지 series. The gag about the description of Liu Bei's appearance (and the actual 'assembly' of the description) always crack me up.

  3. The Great Catsby by Doha is excellent. You can read the first 12 chapters in English for free on Netcomics(dot)com. ^^

  4. Interesting topic. I'm really into graphic novels, and for a while I tried to keep a sharp eye on the Korean production that was released in my country (France). The manhwa production is really split into 3 groups:
    -- manga-likes that use the same codes and topics as Japanese mangas,
    -- webcomics, which are completly different from webcomics in the US or in Europe,
    -- the independent production, which uses a format reasonably close to the global "graphic novel" format.

    In France, it's reasonably easy to find translations of every group. Therefore I was quite surprised when I moved to Korea to discover that bookstores mostly carried manga-like manhwas, and very few graphic novels. And webcomics are just not published in book form. That was one major culture shock.

    Anyway, a couple of suggestion:
    -- For graphic novels, Kim Dong-hwa is excellent and has been published worldwide.
    -- For webcomics, anything from Kangfull (awful art but great stories).
    -- I don't really manga-like manhwas so I cannot help you there.

    The Korean manhwa culture is over a century old. I encourage you to look beyond japanese-style manhwas for a more authentic experience. The Simpsons are animated in Korea. It does not make it a Korean cartoon.

  5. The current trend in comics of Korea is webcomics (or maybe Korean webtoons are the starter of this gendre). They are mainly published in portal sites like naver or daum.

    I think these places are not easy to access for foreigners. And because the format it is difficult to publish as paper comics. I have no idea about their translations into other languages.

    The other format of Korean comics are mostly done before 15 years ago, and it is very difficult to purchase them at this time even for Koreans.

  6. I highly recommend Noblesse, a webcomic by Son Jae Ho and Lee Gwang Su. The story surrounds a vampire that awakens in modern-day Korea after a 820yr slumber; hijinks ensue. Don't let "vampire" throw you off, there is nothing Twilight-esque about the series - though The Reader's fav. manhwas indicates she(?) might be into the melodrama/fantasy genre anyway.

    Regardless, Noblesse is a great comic that I think can appeal to a pretty varied demographic, due to it's general awesomeness. Good, graspable characters (many of them nice to look at), interesting storyline, the art is clean and quite gorgeous, the action/dialogue is sharp and often hilarious and...generally awesome. I could go on, but won't.

    It's free and updated weekly. You can find it on Naver in Korean (search 노블레스 at comic.naver.com) or translated to English on several sites, such as mangafox.

  7. Actually, the Korean did not think to include webtoons -- The Korean does read 마음의 소리 from Naver pretty regularly, and it is hysterically funny. But there is no English translation of that, and it would make zero sense in English anyway.

  8. I forget the exact name of the artist, but I was impressed with "The Priest" (or just simply "Priest", my memory is very hazy). Hollywood made a screen adaptation of it but it is very loosely based on the original. It discusses religion, general life views, love... all that jazz. Kind of heavy, but very enjoyable. Well-drawn and well-told.
    I also liked "Island". Again the artist's name eludes me for the moment. The heroine is a daughter of a jaebol, but ends up at Jeju Island because her father wanted to teach her a lesson. Soon demons begin attacking her and she runs into a mysterious guy named Ban who is a real a-hole but agrees to protect her for money.

    It's been forever since I read these but I do remember how good they were! I'd recommend them to anyone ... who doesn't mind graphic violence. They're tad gory.

  9. I didn't realize that Korean comiccs are called manhwa. If the Japanese have Manga, so Manhwa is for Koreans. I am not an avid Manwha fan buut still trying to discover on how wonderful these conmics can be. I bet the Koreans are still growing in terms of their comics unlike the progress th Japanes Manga now are enjoying.

    teaching jobs overseas

  10. Mandi, how much do they pay you to spam the board with quasi-relevant comment followed by a link that no one will click? Seriously, that's your job?

  11. Aristeia - yeah, it's "Priest". Supposedly the film adaptation is coming next year; I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to mock it. (the original manhwa being amazing but tragically incomplete)

    A lot of the manhwa out there in English is older series brought in at the peak of the manga craze with the seeming premise "the books are about the same size, we can pass it" by a major publisher.

    Now, there's a few firms, Yen Press and Netcomics, notably that do manhwa for the sake of manhwa, but they aren't as big.

    As for recommendations, I'd add Rebirth by Lee Kang-woo, published erratically by Tokyopop in English, and Emperor's Castle by Kim Sungmo, on Netcomics, which are a nice, more manly option to the relatively girly manhwa that tends to be imported these days.

  12. I also stick with manga... I grew up with them and it's hard to switch... The problem with manga is that there's so many of them, and out of 100 there's got to be 1-2 that's great, and since there's a million of them out there, it's quite easy to pick up a good one to follow = no room to switch.

  13. I actually have a website devoted entirely to Korean comics, though for the most part only those that have been translated into English. It's here.

  14. I'm assuming from the reader's comment that she isn't fluent in Korean, and tends to like sunjong manhwa. If that's the case, Yen Press is her best bet for titles of interest: 13th Boy, Goong: The Royal Palace, and Forest of Gray City are three of my favorites. NETCOMICS, which several other folks have mentioned, is another good source for manhwa in translation. Though they do print editions of their most popular titles, a more economical way to enjoy their manhwa is to read them online. The first chapter of each series is available free; subsequent chapters cost $.25 each to read. Dokebi Bride, Full House, Let Dai, and In the Starlight might appeal. The Tokyopop catalog also has a number of manhwa titles, though Tokyopop didn't make a special effort to distinguish them from their shojo manga; of these, my favorites were Saver and Deja Vu: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.

    For additional recommendations, Melinda Beasi's blog Manhwa Bookshelf is a great resource. (Link above.) I've also compiled a list of my 10 favorite manhwa (in translation) at my own site, which your letter-writer might find helpful:


  15. I saw this article very late. I'm reading quite a number of Korean comics and I'm going to write an essay about the topic for my for my final term essay. I might send it if everyone's interested. The essay will be in English, since I'm majoring in English Linguistics.
    And last semester I've written about Korean cartoons, if anyone's interested.


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