7 Korean Webtoons Recommended by Koreans
Every Friday, I open up my Naver Webtoon app in hopes that the latest episode of my current 웹툰 (webtoon) obsession, 귀각시 (The Demon’s Bride), has been uploaded. In Korea it’s posted on Saturdays, but because of time zone differences I feel a little rush of luck that I get to read it on Friday.
Three years ago, I began to read webtoons, which are similar to American comic books or Japanese manga. Most webtoons, or 만화 (manwha), come out on a weekly basis. Naver.com and Daum.net are the biggest sites that provide access to this type of content. The genres of these comics range from action to romance, horror to comedy, so Korean readers generally are able to find a few that they like and read them on the way to and from work each day.
As a language learning/practicing tool, however, these comics allow for free, authentic written input that have the potential to not only increase your vocabulary, but also speed up your reading and naturalize your normal Korean speech. (You’ll also learn a lot of fun onomatopoeias on the way.)
To make this list of recommended webtoons, I spammed many of my Korean friends on KakaoTalk, a messaging app used by Koreans, asking them for webtoons they would suggest to people learning Korean. Take a look below to see their recommendations.
Two Koreans recommended this webtoon to me. The story is about the married life of a Korean woman named Penguin and a British man named Mev. Some of the episodes have English subtitles or even English dialogue, since much of the story takes place in the U.K. The story is cute and takes the time to explain differences between U.K. and Korean culture.
If the movie Inside Out was a webtoon, this would be it. Yumi’s Cells is about the different cells/characters inside her brain, and how they work out situations Yumi faces in her daily life. It’s funny, but the vocabulary may be difficult to understand, as the author uses uncommon words to name each of the cells.
This seven-year-long webtoon, which was recommended by many of my Korean friends, reached great popularity in Korea and was even made into a drama by the same name. The description of the webtoon’s plot that you can find on Naver.com says, “Normal female college student, Hong Seol and the somehow shady older classmate, Yoo Jeong. This the story of these two people’s delicate relationship.” We can see it’ll be a romance from that description, so prepare your heart for seven year’s worth of love and heartache. Our Managing Editor of HKC's Korea Team said, “it has a good balance of conversations and inner monologues,” when she recommended it to me. From what I can tell by browsing the content, it seems like the dialogue will be easily manageable for intermediate students or higher, but definitely doable to all students with a dictionary and willingness to put in time and effort. The only problem is that some portions have been made into a book, so you won’t be able to read all of it online (legally).
This was the first Korean webtoon that was ever recommended to me. Although the webtoon ended in 2015, there are over 200 episodes to read. The plot is the life of four characters, who are supposed to be the embodiments of the stereotypes that each blood type carries in Korean culture. It’s funny and gives insight into a part of Korean culture that will most likely not be covered in your Korean textbooks. I began reading this webtoon when I first started learning Korean, so it can be helpful to all language ability levels. I personally really recommend this one as well.
This webtoon is currently the top, most-viewed webtoon on Sundays. The plot’s premise is about a young lad who chases after a girl who ran into a tower that is said to contain everything one could desire. Once he enters the tower, however, he finds that each level is a challenge that he has to overcome. There are currently over 200 episodes, and with its popularity, it doesn’t seem like the series will end anytime soon. It’s not an easy read, but if you want to read about fantasy, action and possibly love, check it out with your Korean dictionary close at hand.
Ending in 2016, this webtoon showcases the lives of a diverse group of taekwondo members. It’s set in San Francisco, and the main character is a young video game engineer who moved to the U.S. for a different life. This webtoon seems like a good read for a Korean’s perspective on American culture. The vocabulary can be technical or specialized at times, but it would be good reading practice for intermediate or above.
This is a very short webtoon that has pretty easy vocabulary and sentence structure. The webtoon’s description roughly translated is “The line between life and death, who shall be there?” An added bonus is that you can learn how the elderly speak in Korean. I started reading it after it was recommended to me, and I couldn’t stop until I finished it.
The list could go on for eternity, as new webtoons are added and others retire on a regular basis. Although webtoons aren’t a traditional source for learning Korean, using it as a supplemental resource can add variety and a little bit of entertainment to your studying routine. If you have any webtoons you would like to recommend, please leave a comment! I’m always up for checking out new webtoons to fill the ever-present void that is my heart.
Katarina Brown is an editorial intern with The Austin Chronicle; University of Texas at Austin alumnus; and HKC chief copyeditor.