South Korea now has a booming business called webtoons, which is starting to become known and is gaining a foothold in Asia. While this industry is still growing, several of these South Korean web comics are making forays into Japan, where they are being picked up by the fan base who are “digital native” or a group who are now increasingly shunning the traditional print media. So the pressing question here in Tokyo is just how Japanese traditional manga entities should approach this threat as they are print media to the core. And should they jump onto the webtoon band wagon now?
The opinions that are flowing throughout the market are mixed but some firms are now waiting as they do not want to fall behind. The leading publisher Shogakukan now says yes, they will be part of this movement. Mr Hideki Egami, a former editor for this firm affirmed this view. Unlike most Japanese printers who start the publication in print, then move to digital, webtoons carter to digital device users from the start, as their format has already been optimized for personal computers or smartphones. One challenge is the transcribing of stories from other locations to Japan, with the local names of places adapted.
The changes are made with a Korean webtoon and all is changed except the original Korean protagonists, which are kept intact. Japanese producers of manga have been very much focused on the domestic market, as it is massive but the new webtoons could mean the Japanese and Korean producers of manga are internationalized and as a result become more marketable in the region in China and even English speaking countries. Either way, the Korean firms that are driving this new type of manga are starting to learn and adjust, possibly making them challengers for the manga industry in Asia.
Japan`s manga industry is approximately $18 billion per year with Japanese consumption and exports.