On History: Manhwa

By | Tuesday, June 02, 2015 Leave a Comment
Here in the United States, we really don't have a good knowledge of Korean comics. Manhwa are generally lumped in with Japanese comics, and the distinction is lost, I think, on even most comics fans. Further, I don't think we have a good sense of the history of Asian comics in general. Aside from being able to name one or two creators like Osamu Tezuka, I suspect most fans couldn't cite any notable works or creators much earlier than the 1970s.

That's been changing in recent years. Mara Lina Thacker has gotten some attention recently surrounding the work she's been doing building up a huge collection of South Asian comics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. And now Columbia University has amassed (and continues to grow) a very large collection of manhwa. These types of endeavors, I think, will go a long way towards expanding our collective knowledge about comics in general and will help us move away from seemingly always focusing on the US market.

In this video from an event last month, Hee-sook Shin speaks for about 25 minutes on the collection of manhwa at Columbia University, and then Dima Mironenko speaks at length about "official" North Korean comics from the 1950s and '60s and how they were often deliberately misread for a narrative counter to what the government producing them had intended.
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