Lee Eun-Seok woke up in the middle of the debris and looked for survivors but it was no use. Seoul had already turned into a huge hive, infested by giant hornets.
So goes the story in Hive, one of the “webtoons” that have become hugely popular in South Korea and which are poised to become the country’s next booming export, according to some bullish forecasts.
The growth of smartphones and South Korea’s world-leading internet speeds have spurred the rapid take-off of these digital comic strips, which are downloaded from the internet and scrolled through on a smart device.
According to KT Economy Research Institute, South Korea’s webtoon market, with 6.2m readers a day and 140,000 cartoonists, was worth about $96m in 2012. KT predicts that it will grow to $290m by 2015 as webtoons tap into new revenue streams through partnerships with producers of movies, dramas and online games.
As of 2013, the global comic book market was worth an estimated $8.8bn according to Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), while the digital comic book market was worth an estimated $1bn. The biggest comic book market in the world is in Japan, worth an estimated $3bn in 2012, followed by the US at an estimated $600m.