From left are actors Im Si-wan and Lee Sung-min and actress Kang So-ra of hit drama "Misaeng," which depicts hardships of office life. / Courtesy of tvN
By Baek Byung-yeul
Yoon Tae-ho, cartoonist of "Misaeng"
Nothing is as hot in Korea these days as "Misaeng" an online comics-based drama.
Since it began airing on Oct. 17, the tvN drama, about interns at a trading company, has created a huge buzz. Its ratings hit a record-high 7.4 percent last week, the second highest for a cable network program in Korea.
During a recent forum, cartoonist Yoon Tae-ho, author of the original "Misaeng" comics, had some advice for young cartoonists: "Creating your own content is the best way to succeed as a cartoonist.
"I've always said to young cartoonists that they need to focus on making their own content, but they should be cautious about that," Yoon said in conversation with "Misaeng" drama producer Lee Je-moon, at the Creative Korea fair at COEX in southern Seoul.
"If their illustrations and stories are good enough, they will eventually be adapted for a drama or film. If cartoonists' succeed in drawing original content that touches everyone, that will be a real example of creativity."
At the fair, which was organized to discuss how creativity can help the economy, "Misaeng" was introduced as an exemplary case of how well-made creative content can have a considerable ripple effect.
"Misaeng" ("An incomplete life") comics revolve around Jang Geu-rae, 26, who tries to adjust to life as an office worker after failing to become a professional "baduk" (the Korean name for the board game "Go") player. The comic was first published on Daum (www.daum.net), through which it garnered more than 1 billion readers.
Thanks to its huge popularity, a print version was released, hitting 2 million sales last month. The nine-volume series sold about 0.9 million copies when it was originally published from September 2012 to October 2013.
Yoon said "Misaeng's" immense popularity had been pivotal in expanding the number of online book readers.
"For a long time, comic books have been regarded as exclusive to teenagers, but thanks to the rapid growth and popularization of smart devices, people in their 30s and 40s are now also enjoying online comics on buses or in subways," Yoon said.
"After the ‘Misaeng' drama began airing, online comics became familiar to female readers, and as a result, the online comics market expanded."
Producer Lee said many broadcasters overseas, including Japan, other East Asian countries and the U.S., had contacted him about allowing them to rebroadcast "Misaeng."
"I have also received inquiries from many countries asking for permission to remake ‘Misaeng,'" Lee said. "China's CCTV, with whom we don't have a contract yet, has already broadcast a 14-minute sneak peek."
Yoon also confirmed that he will start serializing "Misaeng" with the second season slated for next March.
"At this point, I can only say Jang will not be promoted to chief executive officer or chairman of the company," he said.