Korean animation

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Korean animation, aenimeisyeon (Korean: 애니메이션) , or aeni (Korean: 애니) is animation made in Korea. The industry has produced characters for other countries' companies, exports its creations globally and generates billions of dollars in profits.


The Korean animation industry was in a period of crisis throughout the 2000s. Depression at the reality of being an industry that the West merely gave factory-type drawing to began to sink in. This followed the 1990s, a period of explosive growth for the industry when Korean studios made most of their profits from OEM, mostly from the United States.[citation needed]

In many ways, 2011 was a bright transitional year for Korean animation, with home-produced animated feature films finally finding box office success in South Korea, instead of facing the usual financial failure. As far as overseas export market is concerned, the likes of Rough Draft Korea (RDK) kept on landing new contracts, which have seen Rough Draft perform the manual work on over 45 popular Western cartoon titles over 16 years.[1]

Korean animation has boomed in popularity in Eastern Asia with the success of the series Pororo the Little Penguin and Origami Warriors in 2011, leaving fans wanting to discover more Korean animations. This success is due in part to perfecting the Korean animation technique, and financial returns being reinvested into new animated products.[citation needed]

Some Korean animators still blame the booming Korean game industry for draining the animation industry's talent pool,[1] but the box office success of the Korean animated film Leafie[2] in 2011 in South Korea is inspiring a new generation.[citation needed]

Animation industry[edit]

Animation contracts for Korean animation studios range from collaboration/minor contribution contracts, to most of the work. The South Korean animation industry can be considered dynamic as there are more than a hundred animation studios. While it is mostly firms in South Korea that contract with Western studios, some of the work is reported to be subcontracted to North Korea as well.[2]

Active animation studios or companies of South Korea include:[citation needed]

Former include:

Korean animation characters in public spaces[edit]

Tayo bus 'Rudolph'
  • Larva subway was a subway based on and featured a Larva character. It operated from November 2014 until May 2015 on line No. 2. The Seoul government and Metro explained that they wanted to give citizens a chance to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the subways opening.[3]
  • Tayo buses were organized by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Bus Transport Business Association, and the animation company which made Tayo the Little Bus for the Public Transportation Day. In 2014, the Seoul Metropolitan Government commissioned buses designed as the characters of Tayo the Little Bus to go around the Gwanghwamun Square area of the city.[4]
  • In 2014, statues of Larva and Pororo the Little Penguin were installed in World Park, which is a square in the Lotte World II Hotel. They were well received by citizens and tourist.[5]


In 2010, according to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the Korean market share of domestic characters was about 28% and the remaining 72% was for foreign characters, such as those from Japan and USA. In 2012, experts predicted that the total market size would grow to 10 trillion won (about 9 billion dollars in July 2018) in the near future .[6] In 2014, the domestic character market share soared to 40% and its value in 2013 had reached 8 trillion won (about 7 billion dollars).

Korean characters as international business[edit]

Before the emergence of Korean domestic characters, characters that enjoyed popularity were mostly from the United States and Japan.[7] However, as the industry matured and grew in size, domestic characters received preference not just domestically but also internationally.

Growth of the Korean character market[8][edit]

Domestic scale of the market[edit]

Number of businesses and workers
Category 2014 2015 Increase by
Number of character businesses in Korea 2,018 2,069 2.5%
Number of workers in character businesses in Korea 29,039 30,128 3.8%

The number of character businesses and character business workers keep increasing.

Sales and value added
Category 2014 2015 Increase by
Gross sales of the industry 9,052,700 million 10,080,700 million 11.4%
Value added 3,794,400 million 3,987,500 million 5.1%

The percentage of sales and value are increasing.

International significance of Korean character business[edit]

Exports and imports in 2015 (in dollars)
Category Amount 1 year increase
Exports 551.46 million 12.7%
Imports 168.24 million 1.8%
Difference between imports and exports 383.22 million 18.3%

Korean character business is developing an international reputation. The export ratio increased in 12.7%.

Exports destinations (in dollars)
North America (26.8%) China (21.5%) Europe (21.3%) Southeast Asia (11.6%) Japan (6.3%) Other (12.5%)
147.79 million 118.56 million 117.46 million 68.93 million 34.74 million 63.97 million

Korean characters are introduced globally.

Character preferences[edit]

Character preferences of Koreans in 2016
Rank Name Rate
1 Kakao Friends 14.3%
2 Little Penguin Pororo 9.8%
3 Crayon Shin-chan 6.0%
4 One Piece 4.9%
5 Dooly the Little Dino 4.4%
6 Doraemon 4.2%
7 Larva 3.8%
8 Pokémon 3.3%
9 Hello Kitty 3.1%
10 Frozen 3.0%
11 Other 43.3%

Notable Korean characters[edit]

Dooly the Little Dinosaur (1983)[edit]

Characters produced in Korea have their origins in Dooly the Little Dinosaur, which was created by Sujung Kim in 1983. Before Dooly, characters that enjoyed popularity internally were mostly from the United States or Japan. Dooly started as a character in a published printed cartoon, was in the comic magazine Treasure Island in 1983 and then was published as a comic book. In 1987, a TV animation was produced; in 1996, a theatrical full-length animation was created. Dooly was expanded into various cultural contents sectors as OSMU (one source multi-use).[9][10]


Baby dinosaur Dooly returns to Earth, to Seoul, Korea. He was trapped in a glacier during the Ice Age. Dooly meets friends from different places and use their magical power to travel to the future. Dooly misses mother dinosaur and wishes to find her.[11]

Hodori (1983)[edit]


Hodori was the official tiger mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Some characteristics of Hodori are that he is wearing a Korean traditional style hat and an Olympic rings necklace. The name Hodori was decided in a contest, and the female mascot was named Hosun.[12]

Mashimaro (2000)[edit]

Mashimaro is a cute rabbit character created by CLKO entertainment in 2000 and was introduced as episodes of seven parts. At the time, the word "bizarre" was gaining popularity, and Mashimaro earned the nickname of "bizarre rabbit". The character became widely popular among internet users, was developed into character products, and was exported to overseas markets.[13]


Mashimaro is also known as Yeopgi Tokki ("Bizarre rabbit" in Korean). The original Mashimaro cartoons are full of toilet humour. Mashimaro himself is often portrayed with a plunger stuck to his head. Mashimaro is portrayed as an obese and obnoxious bully, who often resorts to violence to impose his will on others.[11]

Pucca (2000)[edit]

Pucca air balloon at parade in France

Pucca first appeared in Flash animation in “Pucca Funny Love” in 2000. Compared with other Flash-animated characters that appeared in the same period, focus was given to character product development. Pucca penetrated overseas markets in 150 countries as well as domestic markets successfully. Pucca’s figurative form resembling a little Chinese girl with strong contrast between red and black hues distinguishes it from other characters.[13]


The main character, Pucca, is a 10-year old niece of three Chinese noodle house owners. The noodle house, known as the "Goh-Rong", is located in Sooga Village, a small village in the mountains. Pucca is in love with a 12-year-old ninja, "Garu". Pucca always seems to beat him in combats and unintentional competitions, simply by sheer wit.[11]

Pororo the Little Penguin (2003)[edit]

Pororo the Little Penguin

Pororo the Little Penguin was first aired on EBS in 2003. It is an educational TV animation created for preschoolers with consideration of character merchandising from the beginning.


In domestic character markets, the first internally-produced characters were planned as OSMU for overseas market penetration from the early stages. Target analysis and market research was thoroughly conducted. Pororo's globalization strategy succeeded by adopting a common character image favored by children all over the world and by developing educational story contents.[14]


The series revolves around the adventures of Pororo and his friends who live in the snowy village of Porong Porong Forest. In each episode, they often encounter challenges and learn practical and moral lessons.[11]

Line Friends (2011)[edit]

Line Friends booth at comic exhibition

Line Friends were born in 2011 as sticker characters for the mobile messenger "Line". Line Friends characters, which give users pleasure and empathy, can be found in the background of their daily lives, beyond the birthplace of mobile phone s. There are about 5,000 characters in various areas, including 5,000 character products, animations, games, cafes, hotels, theme parks, and theme parks.[citation needed]

Kakao Friends (2012)[edit]

Ryan of Kakao Friends

Kakao Friends were first introduced as sticker characters for mobile messenger "Kakao Talk". Kakao Friends are eight characters: Ryan, Muzi, Apeach, Frodo, Neo, Tube, Con, and Jay-G, each with a different personality. They are popular in different age groups. The witty look and actions of the Kakao Friends are supposed to create sympathy and smiles.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Korazy Art Exhibit". Korazy.com.au. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  2. ^ "Finecut Sells Animated 'Leafie' to U.S., U.K., Australia". The Hollywood Reporter. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  3. ^ Gang, Jieun (2015-05-29). "지하철 2호선 '라바 열차', 이달 운행 종료" ['Larve subway' on line No.2. End of this month]. Newsis. 
  4. ^ Oh, Wonseok (2014-04-02). "서울시'타요버스', 이렇게 찾아요" ['Tayo bus' of Seoul city, find this way]. Bloter. 
  5. ^ Song, Hwajung (2014-10-31). "롯데월드몰, 그랜드 오픈 기념 이벤트 풍성" [Lotte world mall grand open was well received]. Asia Economy. 
  6. ^ Oh, Daeseok (2014-12-28). "8조 캐릭터 시장, 도약하는 토종 캐릭터" [8 billion character market, Growing domestic character]. Business Post. 
  7. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.1 Period of Published Cartoon Characters (1980s~1990s). 
  8. ^ 한국콘텐츠진흥원 (Winter 2017). "2016 캐릭터 산업백서 (2016 Character Industry White Paper)". 국내 캐릭터산업 현황 (Current State: Domestic Character Industry). 
  9. ^ OSMU is a kind of sales strategy that develops contents service on various media such as book, movie and game. It is referred as Media franchise in America and Media mix in Japan.
  10. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.1 Period of Published Cartoon Characters (1980s~1990s). 
  11. ^ a b c d Hyeyoung Chu, Hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 4.2 Story Composition (Table 6). 
  12. ^ 강, 현주 (Summer 2009). "호돌이, 1983". 한국의 생활 디자인. 
  13. ^ a b Hyeyoung Chu, hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.2 Period of Two-Dimensional Flash Animated Characters (The early 2000s). 
  14. ^ Hyeyoung Chu, Hyunju Lee, Hyehyun Cho, Mirae Hwang (Winter 2014). "Periodic Features of Korean Character Designs" (PDF). 3.3. Period of Three-dimensional Animation Characters (the mid-2000s). 
  15. ^ "Korea NO.1 Character Kakao Friends". Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. 

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