From comics to TV screens


With the explosive growth of Webtoon, a webcomic site owned by South Korean online platform Naver, the popularity of published Korean comics called manhwas, has increased, making it easier for international readers to enjoy the plethora of Korean comics available online. As the Korean Wave sweeps through the global media culture, the most popular webtoons are making their way to screens across the globe as K-Dramas. 

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, many South Korean comic publishing businesses were closed due to an economic crisis. In 2004, Kim Jun Koo created an online alternative to print comics called Naver Webtoons which lowered the barrier of entry for comic artists and made it easier for them to engage with their readers.

The stunning artistic quality and intriguing storylines of Webtoons have garnered a huge audience both in Korea and abroad, enticing writers and directors to adapt them to Korean dramas. While “Dr. Frost” was the first of these shows, released in 2014, currently there is a wide array of Webtoon adaptations in different genres such as “True Beauty,” “Sweet Home” and “Itaewon Class,” all of which appeal to both Webtoon and K-drama fans. 

However, similar to book-to-movie Hollywood adaptations, some Korean dramas drastically alter the plot and characters, betraying the intentions of their original Webtoon creators. A great example of this is the ongoing romance comedy drama “True Beauty.” The series follows Lim Ju Gyeong (Moon Ga Young), a high school student who was bullied by her peers because of her “ugly” appearance and becomes popular due to a makeup transformation.

The director and writers of the Korean drama changed integral aspects of the backstory of Kang Su Jin (Park Yoo Na), who is from a wealthy family in the series and is childhood friends with Lee Su Ho (Cha Eun Woo), neither of which were the case in the Webtoon. The resulting drama is mediocre at best due to the altered character dynamics, but it is an addicting show to watch nonetheless. 

“Sweet Home” is another Webtoon-based adaptation that aired its ten action-packed thriller episodes on Netflix this January. It follows high school student Cha Hyun Soo (Song Kang) and the habitants of his apartment building as they try to survive a world where human desires turn people into monsters. Two things that this show did great were the impressive CGI of the monsters and portrayal of the rude and abusive Seok Kim (Woo Hyun). 

The actor’s arrogant tone and reprehensible actions captured his character better than the Webtoon. However, the original Webtoon was better at creating a creepy atmosphere. The adaptation was more of a loose adaptation to the Webtoon of the same name, but the suspense and cliffhangers in each episode led me to binge watch it in just one day.