Cover of Pink Lady, which originally had been published as a webcomic on Naver.
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.
Manhwa has been influenced by the dramatic modern history of Korea, resulting in a diversity of forms and genres, including a mainstream style similar to manga. Distinctive manhwa can be found in editorial comic strips, artistically-oriented works, and webcomics serials.
Typical characteristics of manhwa:
There are now a number of publishers specializing in English translations of Korean comics, and by and large they are unafraid of calling them "manhwa." Though Korea's manhwa system developed later, the manga and manhwa industries can now be considered equal competitors, like "different brands of the same product."
Due to the explosion of manga's popularity in the 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.
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 like Chinese and Japanese: vertically from right to left, top to bottom.
The relative obscurity of Korean culture 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."
Unlike Japan, animations based on Korean comics are 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.
Priest, a manhwa that has been translated to English, will go into production as a movie by U.S. film studio Screen Gems. To be released in 2010, it is produced by Sam Raimi, directed by Andrew Douglas, and will star Gerard Butler as the title character.
In 2004, Blade of the Phantom Master, a popular manhwa, was adapted into an animated film by a joint Korean-Japanese animation team.