Home » The Industry for Digital Comics was Disturbed by Korean Webtoons

The Industry for Digital Comics was Disturbed by Korean Webtoons

by Nathan Zachary

South Korean webtoons are surpassing digital comics in the US and Japan marketplaces (mobile and digital comics). Market analysts claim that the particular webtoon genre is what makes Korean digital platforms successful internationally, while insiders contest this assertion.

            According to mobile data provider AppAnnie, Korean webcomics—also referred to as K-webcomics—dominate the digital comics market in Japan, outselling established giants. Naver Corp.’s LINE Manga, Kakao Corp.’s Piccoma, and Manhuaare the main rivals in Japan, each holding a 38% market share. 70 million people use LINE Webtoon from Naver each month in the US (MAU).

            The main internet portal in Korea is Naver, while the top provider of mobile messaging services is Kakao.

Additionally having great success in the US is Naver. In just six years from its inception in the US in 2014, the LINE Webtoon platform had amassed 70 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of May 2020. This represents a huge increase from the 7 million MAUs reported in April 2019 to the 10 million MAUs reported in November 2019. Additionally, it contrasts sharply with its Korea-based webtoon network, which in May saw 5.64 million MAUs there.

With an expected value of about 4.5 trillion won ($3.8 billion) as of 2020, Japan will likely continue to have the largest digital comics market in the world. The US comes in last with 1.79 trillion won, followed by Korea with 1.55 trillion won.


By introducing a novel drawing style and a storytelling approach that is best suited for mobile viewing, K-webtoonsManhwaupended the established comics market. For readers in Japan and the US, it was a novel experience because, prior to this, digital comics on Kakao and Naver were primarily scans of print comics from conventional publishers like Marvel and DC Comics in the US and Shueisha in Japan.

Given that a new episode is released every week, and occasionally more often, webtoons were also in line with the emerging digital consuming habits. Webcomics were distinguished from traditional print comics by this, which frequently featured monthly updates.

However, insiders claim that the genre’s distinctive characteristics do not ensure success. When they offered webtoons without clear plans, in the beginning, Kakao and Naver both struggled.


To choose best webtoons content from the KakaoPage and DaumWebtoon platforms, Kakao established a dedicated Japan team. The top webtoons were then chosen from the initial batch by Kakao Japan’s global business division, which also localized some of them as needed.

The business has used big data to examine the cultural and dietary habits of Japanese users. Only 333 out of 7,000 webcomics were chosen, and the tactic was a big success.

In order to ensure high-quality content, Naver also focused on collaborating with regional artists. A network of 1,600 professional and 580,000 amateur creators made up Canvas.


Naver and Kakao, two digital behemoths, leverage big data, and artificial intelligence as marketing tools. Based on their usage patterns, Kakao’sPiccoma reminds users to visit the platform and provides free coupons to users who are making their first payment after using the service for free in the past.

According to a Kakao source, this is a regularly utilized technique in games. The LINE webtoon from Naver employs its artificial intelligence AiRS to suggest webtoons based on users’ past viewing habits.


Given the increased prospects for IP in industries like animation, movies, and gaming, Kakao and Naver are focusing on the content business. The source continued, “However, webtoon IPs can get beyond those obstacles and stand a possibility of dominating the worldwide content industry. The US content market is estimated to be worth 1,091 trillion won as of 2020, while Japan’s market is worth 238 trillion won.

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