A brief history of webtoons

A webtoon is a type of digital comic that originated in South Korea and is read vertically by scrolling down on a computer or smartphone. Accessible anywhere and practically free of charge, each episode takes less than five minutes to read.

Webtoons began as online daily chronicles, created by people out of work during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. These eventually evolved into more complex narratives produced by both professionals and amateurs, mixing styles and genres in unexpected ways and engaging with contemporary Korean social issues.

In 2020, webtoons' combined sales topped 1 trillion won (£684.6 million) for the first time, representing a year-on-year increase of over 64%. Today, webtoons stand as a foundation of Korean storytelling industries, having become an inexhaustible source of inspiration for K-drama, cinema, musicals and computer games.

Discover the history of webtoons in our specially commissioned webtoon

Story by Jaemin Lee, comics critic and independent researcher.
Graphics by Seong In-Soo.

Find out more

  • WEBTOON – Thousands of free webtoons to read or download
  • Korean Webtoons Wiki – a wiki dedicated to listing and describing all Korean webtoons.

2000 – 2009

2009 – 2013

2014 – 2018

2018 – Today