On Business: Korean IPs?

By | Monday, December 04, 2017 2 comments
Let's start with this video report about Comic Con Seoul from back in August...
Two interesting things I noticed here.

First, the first half of this report sounds a lot like US reports about San Diego Comic Con from 10-20 years ago. I don't know if that necessarily means Korea's pop culture market is a couple decades behind America's or it has more to do with the news outlets or something else, but it definitely has a different demeanor and tone than what you'll typically find in current US news reports about San Diego.

Second, the back half of the video talks to how/why some characters generate more money than others. What's note-worthy here is that the most popular characters in Korea, generally speaking, are the ones from the US and Japan. The Avengers and One Piece are called out in particular. The reason provided for why there isn't more love for Korean characters is that most of them are geared much more heavily to a very young audience, and that there's little focus on characters for anyone in their teens and older.

So here's a thought. If Korea excels at doing pop culture stuff for kids, wouldn't it make sense of a US publisher to get the rights to those and translate them into English for American audiences? That's long been noted as a significant failing of American comic book publishers: they just don't do kid-friendly material very well. Scholastic has become something of an exception in recent years, but no one else has really gotten any traction there. So couldn't some other publisher, who already has a comics backlist to work with, start licensing Korean material since it's already tailored for young audiences? They'd be able to make a pretty big dent in the youth market here in the US, I think, and would set up audiences for their more grown-up materials as the kids grow into teens and adults. If the Koreans have expertise in the area of kids comics, why not utilize that instead of trying to reinvent the wheel?

Granted, translating kids books would be quite the same as translating ones aimed at older crowds, so you probably couldn't use the same translators for both, but the basic process and structure would be similar, I should think.

Or am I missing something here?
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Johanna said...

What's considered appropriate for kids in Korea and kids in the US can be pretty different at times. (Constraints on nudity immediately come to mind.) I'm more familiar with the Japanese market, and there, there have been attempts to bring over kids' material, like Mameshiba and Crayon Shin-chan.

Definitely a good point about cultural mores! Definitely you wouldn't want to just go snatching up licenses willy nilly! But shouldn't the volume of kids' material from Korea and/or Japan suggest that there's more than a few options that would be socially acceptable in the States? I do recall seeing some Shin-chan books a couple years ago, but they didn't strike as being marketed to kids. By no means is my experience definitive here, but they came to me as "Hey, you like manga? We have manga!" without any consideration beyond that.