Comics and talent – 100th Seoul Comic World

Written by on February 24, 2011 in Arts

Manhwa (만화), i.e. comic books. Animation. Imagination. Talent. Fandom. All these come together at Comic World, a comics/animation/character convention for the true enthusiasts, those who aren’t afraid to unleash their inner geek.

Koreans appreciate good comics, though, and the art isn’t considered as geeky as it would be in the western world. Some comic books need to be called “fully illustrated novels” in order to do them justice, as a series can take up to 30 volumes or more when completed.

Popular comics develop into character goods, animation, film, and TV dramas; the 2006 K-drama series “Goong” () was based on the comic, and the comic “Shikgaek” (식객) was made into a K-drama series  and a film.

More and more talent is emerging in the field as comics venture into larger arenas; they come to Comic World to showcase their artistry and mingle with other artists and fans.

Comic World takes place in both Seoul and Busan several times a year. I, being the über-geek that I am, made a visit to the 100th Seoul Comic World which was held on February 19th~20th.

The convention takes place in different venues, this time it was at the SETEC in southeast Seoul. The day I went was chilly yet sunny.

My entrance stamp! Cute, isn’t it? Re-entry valid for the day only, it allows you to wander outside to get some fresh air when the exhibition halls get too stuffy or to grab a bite to eat. Essential if you’re going to be there all day.

I deliberately went in the afternoon not to be crushed by the crowd but look at this:

Stupid me. There is no way the crowd is going to wane.

Trying to take photos without visible people’s faces was quite a feat.

Display of the manhwa illustration contest on the wall. Many different mediums were used : pencil, ink, watercolors, screentone, and of course digital.

The main attraction is the booths. Budding manhwa and animation artists, creative groups, fan clubs all participate and create a kaleidoscopic atmosphere. The convention is not limited to Korean manwha only; you’ll find many foreign comic book related booths as well such as manga and anime related booths.

The number of K-pop based fan art booths quite surprised me. There were so many! It seemed like every single K-pop idol group had fans who were aspiring manhwa artists or illustrators. (I refrained from buying everything related to my favorite groups; thankfully my brain was working that day, otherwise I’d be broke!)

You have to ask permission from booth owners to take photos and some politely declined when I asked, especially the fan art booths. Apparently there is discord among fans in certain fandoms regarding how certain characters are portrayed and when in disagreement drama ensues, so I was told that it was better if they received “very little attention”. That is totally understandable. People are passionate about these things. Better not add fuel to the fire.

Some booths of which I was able to take photos:

Seoul Aniunion  is a community of aspiring comics/animation artists from 11 high schools in Seoul: CAU High, Dankook High, Dongduk Girls’ High, Eunkwang Girls’ High, Jin-seon Girls’ High, Kyunggi High, Seoul High, Seoul Visual Media High, Sookmyung Girls’ High, Wooshin High, and Yongsan High. I was deeply impressed with their dedication to their hobby (or future career) as it is quite difficult to do any extracurricular activity in high school when most time is spent studying for the college entrance exams. (We used to call high school “exam hell” and I don’t think it has changed much.) What also impressed me was their effort to come together as a group. Sharing information, encouraging and criticizing each other’s work, all that is important in order to grow as an artist.

Their booklet, which was titled “Together” (함께), is a compilation of their talent as individuals and also as a whole. These kids already have the perfect mindset; whether in comics or not, I think they have the right attitude for whatever they may face in life.

The girls in this artist’s work looked lost, reminding me of a melancholy Alice. She was so shy that after I asked permission to take a photo of her booth she practically ducked her head inside the illustration she was drawing. The illustrations in the booklet that I bought had a twisted edge to them, like the other side in fairy tales. Love her work, love!

The creative group Prozac Jung had a very original banner on their booth. Their name is a play on the Korean phrase “pro jakjung” (프로 작정, “determined to be pro”), equally original as their artwork and with whimsical double entendre.

How beautiful is this? I absolutely loved this artist’s work, especially her color palette.

This booth’s original interpretation of 18th century Joseon Dynasty artist Kim Hong Do’s  painting “Ssireum”  caught my eye immediately.

It’s a comic convention. Inevitably, the cosplayers come out in full force. I used to cosplay (my level of geekiness is pretty high) but now I just don’t have the energy to stand and walk around and pose for the cameras all day. It’s absolutely grueling. I see the cosplayers and ah, I see my youth passing before my eyes.

You must ask cosplayers permission before taking their photos; stealth photos can get you in trouble. Here are some of the people that I asked:

Who cares if it’s the parking lot? Strike a pose!

General! I can’t imagine how heavy your armor must be!

How brilliant. Death Note.

My favorite cosplayer of the day was the girl as Death Note.

“Where is Light?” I asked. “It would’ve been perfect if you had Light next to you!”

“I have no Light!” she faux wailed.


The cosplayers were rushing in for the cosplay show, so I missed taking photos of the most convincing Oscar and Marie Antoinette from “Rose of Versaille” that I’d ever seen, and whole SWAT teams and soldiers in full blown military gear. I was extremely amused to note that all of the guys in the military related cosplay were pretty young, i.e. not having completed their mandatory military service (and having no clue what the real thing is like).

My axe may be heavy but I still won men’s best costume!

Could you hurry up with the interview already? I’m getting cramps!

Let’s give them a show! Fight!

There were moments while watching the show when I was going, “OMG, how geeky am I?” because I was enjoying it so much. Embrace your geekiness! It’ll make you feel better.

Have you ever seen a power hero eating tteokbokki  and sundae?  It’s possible here where street food vendors have set up their stalls. There is also a convenience store inside the building where girls in period dress and warriors slurp up cups of hot ramyeon.

There are many things to buy at the convention. Comic books and booklets, illustrations, posters, post cards, bookmarks, mouse pads, mugs, all sorts of merchandise are available at very reasonable prices. The most popular artists sell out quickly and tend to close their booths early.

I bought very little this time around : booklet from Goodrem, Seoul High School Ani-Union compilation, Alice in Wonderland card set (I love anything and everything Alice related) from SIZH, and a K-pop boyband Shinee set from SPSP  for a friend who’s a hardcore fan.

My lack of purchases was mostly due to the fact that there was little original work to choose from. Although I have nothing against fan art as it can be a great way to develop artistic and narrative skills, not to mention just a hobby to have fun, I would have loved to see more future manhwa artists showing off their original work.

I do have to give a pass to the young artists who haven’t found their own personal style quite yet and seem to be mimicking the styles of noted manhwa artists – they’ll soon grow into their own. For those who truly had abundance of original talent? They need all the support they can get, be it words of encouragement or a purchase of their work.


The 101st Seoul Comic World is scheduled for March 26th ~ March 27th, 2011 at the aT Center.

The 68th Busan Comic World is scheduled for May 7th ~ May 8th, 2011 at BEXCO.

Cosplayers are required to register in advance. As the event is kid-friendly, there is a restriction on the level of exposure that is allowed and the event organizers have the right to expel anyone from the grounds who do not follow the guidelines.

Admission fee : 4,000 won

Comic World

Seoul office : (02) 3142-2137 (Closed on Tuesday)

Busan office : (051) 583-2460 (Closed on Sunday)

About the Author

Suzy Chung

Multilingual editor, writer, and translator. Coffee addict, bookworm, art junkie, foodie, oenophile, and a billion other things. I tend to talk a lot. @suzyinseoul