Manhwa (Korean pronunciation: manɦwa) is the general Korean term for comics and print cartoons (common usage also includes animated cartoons). Outside of Korea, the term usually refers specifically to South Korean comics. The term, along with manga, is a cognate of the Chinese manhua. Manhwa were inspired by classic Asian arts, especially Chinese.

Manhwa has been influenced by the dramatic modern history of Korea, resulting in a diversity of forms and genres, including a mainstream style same as manga. Distinctive manhwa can be found in editorial comic strips, artistically-oriented works, and webcomics serials.

Manhwa in the United States

Due to the explosion of manga's popularity in America, many of the licensed titles acquired for the American market seek to emulate the popular elements of other successful series. Recently, long-running webcomics serialized via Internet portal sites (e.g., Media Daum) and personal homepages have become both the creative and popular basecamp among the younger generation in Korea.

Direction of text

Manhwa is read in the same direction as English books, horizontally and from left to right, because hangul is normally written and read horizontally, although it can also be written and read vertically from right to left, from top to bottom.

History of the term

Linguistically, 漫画 (manga), 漫畫 (manhua), and 만화 (漫畫 manhwa) all mean comics in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean respectively. The word, of Japanese origin, is a compound of two kanji (Chinese characters). These type of words are called 和製漢語 (wasei kango). A parallel example is the term 電話 (telephone denwa?) which also originated in Japan from the kanji 電 (electricity) and 話 (speak). The term was then adopted in Chinese and Korean, similar to how "telephone" was coined in English from the Greek roots "tele" and "phonos", and then spread back into Greek and other languages. Complications arise because in these languages the terms manga/manhua/manhwa can all mean comics in general but also specifically refer to Japanese-style comics. Specifically, Korean-style manga is often called 한국 만화 (Korean Manhwa/Manga) in Korean.

Adaptation of term

The relative obscurity of Korean culture in the Western world has caused the word "manhwa" to remain somewhat unknown in the English-speaking world. Instead, English translations of manhwa have achieved success by targeting the manga and anime community, to the extent that manhwa are often marketed as "manga."

Animation and live-action adaptations

Animation based on Korean comics is still relatively rare (though there were several major hits in the late 1980s and early 90s with titles such as Dooly the Little Dinosaur and Fly! Superboard). However, live-action drama series and movie adaptations of manhwa have occurred more frequently in recent years. Full House in 2004 and Goong ("Palace" or "Princess Hours") in 2006, are prominent examples as both have been counted as the best dramas of their respective years.

In 2007, The Great Catsby, an award-winning Korean webcomic, was adapted into a live-action drama, after a run as an on-stage musical in 2006. The title was also planned to be adapted into a feature film in late 2007.

In 2006, SamBakZa produced There she is!! which is about the developing relationship of a rabbit and a cat.

Priest, a manhwa that has been translated to English, was adapted into the 2011 American horror film of the same name by Screen Gems. Released in 2011, it was produced by Michael DeLuca, directed by Scott Stewart, and stars Paul Bettany as the title character.

War of Money is another dramatized manhwa that has become immensely popular in South Korea, garnering much attention for its soundtrack and actors.

In 2004, Blade of the Phantom Master, a popular manhwa, was adapted into an animated film by a joint Korean-Japanese animation team.

Korean manhwa publishers

  • Topaz Agency Inc.
  • Daewon C.I.
  • Haksan Culture Company
  • Seoul Culture Corporation

  • hinwon Agency Corporation
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