From romantic comedies to action-thrillers – Hallyu titles have established their iron grip on pop culture over the past few years. Behind several of them – in addition to stellar acting performances and high production values – are equally engaging digital comics. In honour of the artform and its creators, we’re spotlighting a few Korean dramas that are based on webtoons.
Flip the metaphoric pages of history and you’ll discover that literary adaptations have often been on the receiving end of considerable success in the entertainment industry. Take Harry Potter for instance – J.K Rowling’s brainchild that’s now a million-dollar franchise. Or even Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin that’s now established a cult-like status across fantasy fiction enthusiasts. It’s no surprise then that dramas from the ‘land of the morning calm’ – a popular, comfort content choice for many across the globe – also consistently borrow from the written word.
In particular, some of the more popular Korean shows borrow from webtoons. A portmanteau of the words “web” and “cartoon,” – these are made to be read on mobile devices and span a range of genres – hair-raising thrillers to classic romantic comedies. Their popularity prompted directors and producers to take a closer look into the world of all things digital, adapting their rollercoaster storylines for the silver screen. Many even stay true to the original story by casting actors who truly resemble their 2D counterparts. If you’re yet to explore this aspect of dramas or are just curious, here’s a list of titles that are worth an addition to your watchlist.
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Korean dramas that are based on popular webtoons
As far as romantic comedies go, this one’s perhaps the most popular of 2022. Based on the eponymous webtoon by HaeHwa (writer) and Narak (illustrator) – it follows the CEO of Go Food Kang Tae-Moo who begrudgingly agrees to go on a blind date pre-arranged by his overbearing grandfather. There he meets his employee Shin Ha-ri – albeit in disguise as her best friend who convinces her to take her place, hoping to be rejected. However, Tae-Moo, determined to half further similar dates, proposes to her instead. Jumping through hoops to keep the jig up, Ha-ri finds herself in several hilarious situations. We’re talking flying heels, several wigs, and comical banter. This one’s an entertainer through and through.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim
A cult classic that’s often hailed as a gateway K-drama – What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is based on a 2013 novel by Jung Kyung-Yoon – which was then serialised into a webtoon by KakaoPage in 2015. It follows one complex and conceited Lee Young-Joon – the vice chairman of a multinational corporation – who relies on his secretary Kim Mi-So to stay efficient. However, when the latter hands in her resignation, citing personal interests, he makes it his mission to change her mind. This leads to a series of misunderstandings and dreamy dates. Not to mention some of the most swoon-worthy romantic moments the world of K-dramas has seen to date.
The King’s Affection
This historical romance – based on the webtoon Yeonmo by Lee So-Young – is set in the Joseon period. The story goes that the crown prince’s wife gives birth to fraternal twins – an ominous sign at the time. When the daughter is about to be killed to break the omen, her mother begs for her life to be spared, sending her away secretly. Years later, the son passes away – leaving the throne vulnerable. That is, until the daughter returns to take his place, all while posing as a prince herself. Afraid of this secret being revealed, she struggles to trust people – being dubbed taciturn in the process. However, her optimistic and good-looking tutor changes things for the better. This one’s a must-watch.
All Of Us Are Dead
A coming-of-age Korean drama with a dark, apocalyptic touch – All Of Us Are Dead is based on the webtoon Now At Our School by Joo Dong-Geun. It follows a set of students who go through the regular motions of high school until one student returns from the science lab with an out-of-the-ordinary infection. Soon enough, the institution becomes ground zero for a deadly virus that turns people into – you guessed it – zombies. As the teenagers fight to survive – they also juggle experiences like crushes, loss, bullying, and everything in between. Expect plenty of hair-raising chases in this one.
My ID Is Gangnam Beauty
Based on the smashing hit webtoon No Longer A Heroine! My ID is Gangnam Beauty! by Maenggi Ki – this Korean drama follows Kang Mi-Rae – who looks to surgery to get a fresh start after being bullied for her looks her entire life. In college, she meets Do Kyung Suk – who also went to the same middle school as her. An optimist who sees people for who they are – he’s attracted to Mi Rae and stands up for her when she begins to get bullied all over again – this time as “Gangnam Beauty,” for going under the knife. During the course of this, she falls in love and discovers her own worth. Heartwarming and romantic, this one will have you reaching for the tissue box.
Perhaps one of the most popular Korean dramas of all time, Itaewon Class is based on the eponymous webtoon by Kwang Jin. It tells the tale of Pak Seroyi – who gets expelled from school for punching a bully, while his father is killed in an accident. Years later, he’s an ex-convict – working towards setting up a street bar with his friends. Also, on his agenda? Vengeance for his father’s death. Complex characters and steely storyline truly make this one worth an addition to your watchlist.
Mystic Pop Up Bar
Fusing comedy with fantasy and romance – this popular Korean drama is based on the webtoon Twin Tops Bar by Bae Hye-Soo. The story goes that an ill-tempered ghost – condemned to cure 100,000 souls to pay for her sins – runs an outdoor drinking establishment. Also called a pojangmacha, the space welcomes dead and alive alike to have their conflicts resolved, via the medium of dreams. Enter Hang Kang-Bae, a human with the unusual gift of having people reveal their secrets with just a touch and former afterlife detective Chief Gwi – each of whom bring a certain something with them when they walk through the doors. If you need a smile, this one won’t disappoint.
All images: Courtesy Netflix