- 4 months ago
JTBC’s hit TV series “Itaewon Class,” which premiered in late January, has been seeing solid success with recent episodes gaining double-digit ratings. The webtoon-based popular drama is set to restore JTBC’s reputation as a drama powerhouse a year after its mega-hit drama “SKY Castle” broke the rating record for cable television. The latest episode earned 14.2 percent of viewership.
The drama’s winning streak didn’t come out of blue. It owes its success to the well-made webtoon which depicts a young man seeking revenge. The lead characters’ realistic performances, quality filming, and directing also play a part in the success of the drama. Also, its original cartoonist Cho Kwang-jin’s participation in writing the script for the TV adaptation is another key factor that helped the drama strike a chord with viewers. In fact, the popularity of “Itaewon Class” was anticipated from the start because the original story had a strong following.
Webtoons, a portmanteau of “web” and “cartoon,” are online comics available to read on major internet portals like Daum and Naver. The comic “Itaewon Class,” was originally published on Daum Webtoon and had 14 million subscribers until recently, according to its distributor Kakao Page, making it one of Daum Webtoon’s biggest successes. A dramatization of webtoons is now common. But not many expected any webtoons to gain such phenomenal popularity when they first appeared in early 2000. Webtoons back then were considered as something that can be consumed for free and many search engines used them as a tool to attract people to their websites.
But now market insiders estimate that the size of the webtoon industry amounts to approximately 1 trillion won as of 2019 and popular webtoon writers earn more than 100 million won annually, according to Naver. The Korea Creative Content Agency also released data that shows the growth of the webtoon industry. Exports of contents in the cartoon industry reached $22.67 million in the first half of 2019, up 12.8 percent year-on-year. There have been original soundtracks embedded in webtoons as background music, but investing a huge amount of money and joining hands with mainstream media personalities to create a single song was unprecedented. Daum Webtoon provides services without background music whereas Naver webtoon features background music in some episodes.
“More people enjoy reading webtoons like they watch dramas every day. An increasing number of webtoons have quality storylines and drawings…. We thought that a webtoon soundtrack could help our viewers enjoy them more. We are in the process of developing a profit model for Kakao Page and Daum Webtoon,” Ryu Jung-Hye, chief marketing officer of Kakao Page, said. Officials expect that the market will grow in the future and become a new genre of music.
“As the webtoon market grows, it is a chance for musicians as well to work on the new genre called ‘webtoon OST’…. It is the beginning of the market, but we expect that it will establish its own territory like in the film and drama industries and will get bigger when more songs are released into the market,” Hong Yeon-ju, director of Kakao Page, said.