It’s been a few years since I’ve been asked, “What do you want to draw? It’s been a few years since I’ve been asked that question…” Challenges and Surprising Strategies Seen in TBS’ Entry into Korean Webtoon | FRIDAY DIGITAL

It’s been a few years since I’ve been asked, “What do you want to draw? It’s been a few years since I’ve been asked that question…” Challenges and Surprising Strategies Seen in TBS’ Entry into Korean Webtoon

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Seoul, South Korea, was the first place in the world where TBS established a business subsidiary. And that company is said to be the creator of “Webtoon,” a vertically scrolling electronic manga that is currently attracting a lot of attention.

Why is a Japanese TV station doing webtoons in Korea? And is the business doing well? We interviewed the people involved and found out some surprising strategies and the surprising current situation of Korean webtoons.

Studio TooN, a webtoon production company established by TBS in Seoul this May, is a new company funded by TBS, NAVER WEBTOON, the largest webtoon production company in Korea, and SHINE Partners, a Japanese webtoon production company.

The initial goal is to gather Korean creators through headhunting and other means, produce webtoons, and serialize them on the Korean digital manga platform “NAVER WEBTOON” and make them a hit.

About the current situation of “Studio TooN,” which practically started operations in early August of this year, almost four months after its establishment, Chairman Akira Nagao, who has been assigned there from TBS, and President Keita Iwamoto, who has long experience in Korean webtoon production, spoke about the current status of “Studio TooN”. (SHINE Partners), both of whom have long experience in Korean webtoon production.

Studio TooN Chairman Kei Chosei (left) is currently stationed in Korea, while President Keita Iwamoto (right) is making efforts in webtoon production while traveling back and forth between Japan and Korea.

A surprisingly large number of creators applied for the program.

Studio TooN’s headquarters is located in a shared office in Hongdae, Seoul’s trendy student district. The office is visited daily by Korean creators. The office is visited daily by Korean creators who are interviewing to join Studio TooN.

In Korea, it has become common over the past few years for webtoons to be produced by teams of about six people, known as “studios. It is efficient to have creators as employees, and to create more and more webtoons by dividing the workload. Studio TooN’s first mission is to secure such “in-house creators.

Iwamoto: “In Korea, webtoon is an already established industry, so at first I thought it would be difficult to find people. However, I have to say that many more people have applied than I had expected. I think this is probably because there were more problems in our industry than we expected, so there was a lot of anticipation for the new company established by the three Japanese and Korean webtoon-related companies and TBS.”

Chosei: “I wondered what would happen when we got into Korea. I interviewed about 20 writers who would become employee creators, and they all watched more Japanese dramas, including TBS, than I had expected. I can sense that they are eager to learn about the Japanese content creation process.

What are the critical issues with Korean webtoons?

Unlike Japanese manga, they scroll vertically and are all in color for easy reading online. Called “instant content” or “snack content,” webtoons are content to be read with one hand while doing something else. They are not read if they are too made up.

To be honest, they are still taken lightly in Japan, but their presence is growing as Korean dramas based on webtoons, such as “Itaewon Class,” have become hits in Japan and the number of readers is rapidly increasing in Japan.

There are already dozens of universities in Korea that have webtoon departments. There is even a “Webtoon Society. It is such a huge business in South Korea that it has taken root in society, but there are some problems with it.

President Iwamoto is bilingual in Japanese and Korean, having studied in Korea and worked in the Korean webtoon industry. He is also a pioneer in the Korean and Japanese webtoon industry, and has a thorough knowledge of the industry, but in his eyes, the recent Korean webtoon industry has become “too much of a business,” which is detrimental to the industry.

Iwamoto: “The Korean webtoon production industry is a super job-hopping society, where people repeatedly change jobs in order to raise their salaries as much as possible, which is very different from the image of a Japanese “manga artist. When I asked, “What kind of work do you want to draw? I was told, “It’s been several years since I was asked such a question. Recently, I’ve only been asked, “Can you draw a story like this, which is currently selling well? The applicant told me, “They only ask me, ‘Can you draw this kind of story that’s selling now?

In the Korean studio system, it is the norm to produce more and more, make it in six months, and release it to the world. I think it can be said that auteuristic ideas are ignored. But I have always said, will Korean webtoons end up as a business or will they become a culture? I believe that for it to become a culture, it needs the help of creators.”

In other words, “Studio TooN” is “aiming to sublimate webtoons from an industry to an art form by taking the best of Japan and Korea, while incorporating the ‘creator’s ideas’ of Japanese manga artists and making good use of the Korean studio system” in Korea.

The Importance of “Itchokami” While Studying Locally

So why did TBS focus on Korean webtoons? Chairman Nagao, who has been in charge of Korean drama purchasing for many years, explains the reason.

Chosei: “The era of entertainment business targeting only Japan will surely end. We have to expand globally. There was talk of buying a Korean drama production company, but it was too expensive and very unaffordable. But I thought, ‘I can’t do a drama, but I might be able to do an original story,’ so I approached Mr. Iwamoto, who had been my drinking buddy since those days.”

TV stations often do not own the rights to “original works” no matter how successful the dramas they produce, and although TBS has had hit after hit with original manga works such as “Boys Over Flowers” and “Run Away, It’s Shameful but Useful,” there has been no further development. The Korean adaptation of “Juban Bake” was made after watching the TBS drama, but no matter how many times it is remade, TBS does not receive a single yen.

Under such circumstances, TBS also focused on “the importance of increasing more original intellectual properties and securing original works,” and Mr. Chosei felt strongly that he had to study webtoons, given the fact that many hit Korean dramas are based on webtoon originals. He then decided, “If I am going to study in the home country of Korea, I might as well start my own company.

Chosei said, “This shows how domestic the Japanese TV industry was in its conception, and although it was a small step for TBS, we decided to go overseas. First, we will work with a Korean writer to make a hit webtoon in Korea. If a webtoon becomes a hit in Korea, it will naturally flow to the rest of the world. Of course, we are also considering using them as the basis for a TBS drama series in Japan.

Japan still underestimates the importance of webtoons, but I think it will be a scary thing if we make fun of it. It was the same with cell phones and the same with dramas. I am afraid that before long, only Japan will be left behind in a Galapagos-like way. Even Japanese manga may become Galapagosized. To prevent this from happening, we are coming to Korea to learn firsthand and “itchokami.

The weakness and shortcomings of Japan, whether in the TV industry or in other industries, is that “we have to be very careful. I believe that Japan’s weakness and shortcomings lie in being too cautious and adventurous, and being afraid to take on new challenges. It is probably an indisputable fact that this has led to the current decline of Japanese television.

In this sense, I think it is very significant that TBS has taken up the “challenge of making a webtoon in Korea, the home of webtoons,” and I hope that TBS will leave its mark in Korea as a Japanese TV station.

  • Interview and text Hiromichi Chinmoku / TV producer and writer

    Joined TV Asahi in 1992. After covering the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo cult as a reporter in the Social Affairs Department, he worked as a director for Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station before becoming a producer. He has covered many overseas events, including coverage of China and the Korean Peninsula and the terrorist attacks in the U.S. He also launched the ABEMA service. He also participated in the launch of the ABEMA service. In August 2019, he became independent and is active not only in broadcasting programs but also in various media. He is a part-time lecturer at Edogawa University and an instructor at MX Television Visual Academy. As a member of the Society for Public Communication, he studies local media and has researched and written articles on face-framing panels as his life's work. His recent books include "Dramatically Increase Access and Registrations! Video Production: 52 Professional Tricks" (Nihon Jitsugyo Shuppansha, Ltd.).

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