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NHN joins race for top spot in global webtoon market

By Apr 05, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

NHN Comico's popular webtoon, Lady to Queen
NHN Comico's popular webtoon, Lady to Queen

South Korean content platforms' appetite for webtoons remains strong as major players such as Naver Corp. and Kakao Corp. further ramp up their webtoon businesses, reaching for the top spot in the global storytelling market. Now domestic game platform giant NHN Corp. has joined the race, heralding intensified competition among local firms.

According to the IT industry on Apr. 5, NHN recently invested 300 million won ($265,805) to acquire a 15% stake in Studio Woogii, a webtoon production studio that helped produce the popular webtoon Slave B. The studio also runs game illustration and design operations.

NHN’s investment in Woogii is aimed at creating synergy with its existing webtoon operations. Since 2013, NHN has operated webtoon platform Comico to service translated works in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. As of 2020, the app posted over 35 million global downloads.

Comico provides over 600 translated webtoons and web novels, including 200 exclusive works. Last July, an English version of the app, Pocket Comics, was released to target English-speaking countries.

Meanwhile, Naver and Kakao have also been increasing investments in webtoon operations as they jostle to become the No. 1 player in the global market.

Last month, Naver spent 33.4 billion won to acquire a 25% stake in Contents First, the operator of webtoon platform Tappytoon. Founded in 2016, Tappytoon translates and introduces Korean web novels and webtoons abroad. 

In October 2020, Kakao also invested 20 billion won to acquire a 25% stake in Toyou's Dream, a company that holds an intellectual property rights portfolio for popular webtoon series such as Dokgo.

As webtoons gain greater popularity worldwide, competition continues to heat up among domestic firms that are vying for bigger market share in the global digital comics market, in particular, the Japanese market, which is second only to the US.

Last month, Kakao’s webtoon app Piccoma and Naver’s Line Manga topped the list of highest-grossing comic apps in Japan. NHN’s Comico came in seventh place.

According to the National IT Industry Promotion Agency, the global digital comics market is expected to balloon from around $2.4 billion in 2018 to $3.3 billion in 2023.

Write to Joo-wan Kim at

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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