SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Korea Bizwire) – Dramas based on popular webtoons have taken center stage in the South Korean TV drama market. In a country where novelty is key, these adaptations draw viewers with their fresh settings, imaginative characters, and recognizable titles.
One of the most buzzed-about webtoon-based dramas in the latter half of this year has been “Moving.” This 20-episode Disney+ original series premiered in August and has been a significant success for Disney+ Korea. Viewers have praised the show for its unique blend of the creator and screenwriter Kang Poole’s warm perspective and thrilling action sequences. It scooped up six awards at this year’s Asian Content Awards and Global OTT Awards, including the prestigious Best Creative award.
Next on Disney+’s agenda is “Vigilante,” another webtoon-based drama premiering on October 8. The series stars acclaimed actors Nam Joo-hyuk, Yoo Ji-tae, and Lee Jun-hyuk.
Netflix has also made its mark with highly anticipated original series such as “Doona!” featuring Suzy and “Daily Dose of Sunshine,” both adapted from webtoons of the same names.
In terms of terrestrial dramas, MBC’s “A Good Day to Be a Dog,” which debuted last month, and SBS’s “The Killing Vote,” airing weekly since August, are based on series from Naver Webtoon and Kakao Webtoon, respectively.
This surge in webtoon-based dramas follows the success of previous adaptations. In 2020 and 2021, Netflix original series like “Misaeng” and “Itaewon Class” gained immense popularity. Meanwhile, series like “All of Us Are Dead,” “Hellbound,” and “Sweet Home” achieved international acclaim, igniting the global K-drama craze.
According to NAVER Webtoon, Netflix’s original drama series based on NAVER Webtoon intellectual property (IP) from June 2021 to October this year all ranked among the top 10 most popular non-English-language titles.
Notably, in the crime, thriller, and mystery genres, webtoon-based dramas boast higher average viewership rates. A study by Kim Jung-hwan of Pukyong National University analyzed 50 dramas in these genres from 2021 to 2023 and found that webtoon-based dramas garnered an average viewership rate of 7.88 percent, surpassing non-webtoon-based dramas at 5.88 percent.
One of the significant advantages of webtoon IPs lies in their ability to deliver fresh and unconventional storylines. These narratives often explore themes rarely seen in traditional Korean dramas, such as zombies, monsters, reincarnation, possession, and psychics.
The established popularity of webtoon IP offers another incentive for drama producers. Drawing on serialization and performance data, they can gauge in advance which stories have captured the public’s attention, making it easier to engage existing webtoon fans in the audience. As one industry insider put it, “If a webtoon has already garnered domestic and international readership, its transition into a drama is almost a guarantee of success—a kind of box office guarantee.”
As the popularity of webtoons continues to shape the landscape of dramatization, we can expect more collaborative efforts between webtoon creators and drama producers from the very inception of the production process.
J. S. Shin (email@example.com)