Posted on Oct. 13, 2021, 2:14 p.m.Updated Oct 13, 2021, 2:18 PM
The battle began in the late 2000s in South Korea when local web giants understood the rapidly changing comic book market long before Japanese publishers did. While Japanese manga producers were reluctant to go digital and contented themselves with posting simple scanned versions of their paper titles online, the Koreans Naver and Kakao, which offer complete Internet platforms (messaging, shopping, video, etc.) launched their first webtoons, these manga specially designed to offer very smooth vertical reading on smartphones.
Building on their success in Korea, the two groups landed in the mid-2020s in Japan, where they encountered no serious local competition. Relying on its “super app” Line, now used by 88 million Japanese, Naver quickly became the leader of the webtoon in the archipelago, before Kakao came to compete with it with a similar application called “Piccoma”.