Korean animation

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Korean animation, Korean anime, manga animasyonu, or aeni (/ˈæni/; Korean: 애니), has gone from hand-held flip books in early times to studios that produce work for major American and Japanese animation companies.[1]

Due to extreme censorship, the animation of North Korea has a unique style; in South Korea, the animators and producers have more freedom of creativity.


Pororo with Petty in Lotte World II Hotel

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 OEM is concerned, the likes of Rough Draft Korea (RDK) keep on landing new contracts which have seen Rough Draft perform the manual work on over 45 popular "Western" cartoon titles over the last 16 years.[2]

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[3] 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 around 120 animation studios, mostly competing with some of the larger studios that throw smaller studios by way of overseas export market (OEM) work. 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:

Former include:

Korean animation characters in public spaces[edit]

  • Larva subway is a subway that features a Larva character. Based on popularity of Larva (TV series), Larva subway operated from November, 2014 until May, 2015 on line No.2. The Seoul government and Seoul Metro explained that they wanted to give the citizens a chance to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the subways opening with Larva subway.[4]
Tayo bus 'Gani'
Tayo bus 'Rudolph'


According to Korea Creative Content Agency, in 2010, the character market share of domestic characters was about 28% in Korea, the remaining 72% were occupied by foreign characters such as those from Japan and USA. But in 2014, the character market share of domestic characters soared to 40%, the value of Korean character market reached 8 trillion won in 2013. In 2012, experts predicted that the total market size would grow to 10 trillion won in the near future .[7]

Korean Characters as International Business[edit]

Before the emergence of Korean domestic characters, characters that enjoyed popularity were mostly overseas characters from the United States of America and Japan.[8] However, as the industry matured and grew in size, domestic characters received preference not just domestically but also internationally.

Growth: Korean Character Market[9][edit]

Domestic Scale of the Market[edit]

Number of Business & Workers
Category 2014 2015 Increase by
Number of Character Business in Korea 2,018 2,069 2.5%
Number of Workers in Character Business in Korea 29,039 30,128 3.8%

The number of character business and character business workers keep increasing

Sales & Value added (Unit: \)
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%

As we can see from the chart, the percentage of sales and value is increasing remarkably

International Significance of Korean Character Business[edit]

Export & Import Condition 2015 (Unit: $)
Category Amount Increase by (compared to 2014)
Export 551.46 million 12.7%
Import 168.24 million 1.8%
Difference between Import and Export 383.22 million 18.3%

Korean character business is developing an international reputation, the export ratio increased as 12.7%

Exporting Countries From Korea (Unit: $)
North America (26.8%) China (21.5%) Europe (21.3%) South East 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

Moreover, Korean characters are introduced to all around the world.

Character Preference of Korean People[edit]

Character preference of Korean People 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]

Korean domestically-produced characters have their origin in 'Dooly', which was created by Sujung Kim in 1983, before dooly, characters that enjoyed popularity internally were mostly overseas characters from the United States or Japan. The character of 'Dooly' started as a cartoon character in a published cartoon in a printed medium. Little Dinosaur Dooly started its life in the comic magazine <Treasure Island> in 1983 and then was published as a comic book. In 1987, a TV animation was produced, and in 1996, a theatrical full-length animation was created. Dooly was expanded into various cultural contents sectors as OSMU (one source multi-use).[10][11]

Story Feature[edit]

Baby dinosaur ‘Dooly’ returns to Earth, Seoul, Korea, he was trapped in the ice glacier during the Ice Age. Dooly meets friends from different spaces, they use their magical power to time-travel from past to future. Dooly misses mother dinosaur and wishes to find her.[12]

Hodori (1983)[edit]


Hodori was the official mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. The motive of this character is a tiger, some characteristics of Hodor is wearing a Korean traditional style hat and an Olympic rings shape necklace. Meanwhile, the name Hodori was decided through a public naming contest after the official design of the official mascot was announced, the female mascot was named Hosun. In addition, Hodori and Hosuni were introduced to the entire Olympic Games in addition to the basic events of the sport, including the sport of archery, horseback riding, the sport of golf, badminton, and wheelchair games.[13]

Mashimaro (2000)[edit]

Mashimaro is a cute rabbit character created by CLKO entertainment in 2000, and was introduced as 7-part episodes, 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, it attained a big success.[14]

Story Feature[edit]

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.[12]

Pucca (2000)[edit]

Air balloon Pucca at parade in France

Pucca first appeared in Flash Animation “Pucca Funny Love” in 2000. Compared with other Flash-animated characters that appeared in the same period, a focus was put on character product development. "Pucca" penetrated overseas markets in 150 countries as well as domestic markets and gained huge success. Pucca’s figurative form resembling a little Chinese girl and strong contrast between red and black hues distinguishes itself from other characters.[14]

Story Feature[edit]

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 the 12-year-old ninja, "Garu". Pucca always seems to beat him in combats and unintentional competitions, simply by sheer wit.[12]

Little Penguin Pororo (2003)[edit]

Little Penguin Pororo

Little Penguin Pororo 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-produce characters were planned as OSMU for overseas market penetration from the early stage. Target analysis and market research was thoroughly conducted. Pororo's globalization strategy succeeded by adopting common character image favored by children all over the world and by developing educational story contents.[15]

Story Feature[edit]

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.[12]

Line Friends (2011)[edit]

Line Friends Booth at Comic Exhibition

Line Friends was born in 2011 as a sticker character 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.

Kakao Friends (2012)[edit]

Ryan of Kakao Friends

Kakao Friends was first introduced as sticker character for mobile messenger "Kakao Talk".

Story Feature[edit]

Along with each individual, the Kakao friends is accompanied by eight characters: Ryan, Muzi, Apeach, Frodo, Neo, Tube, Con, and Jay-G. Eight different characters have different personalities, and they are loved by many different ages, reflecting the unique aspects of people who can easily see and interact with each other around us, the witty look and actions of the Kakao Friends create a broad range of sympathy and a pleasant smile.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Atlantic: A New Age of Animation
  2. ^ "Korazy Art Exhibit". Korazy.com.au. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  3. ^ "Finecut Sells Animated 'Leafie' to U.S., U.K., Australia". The Hollywood Reporter. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  4. ^ Gang, Jieun (2015-05-29). "지하철 2호선 '라바 열차', 이달 운행 종료" ['Larve subway' on line No.2. End of this month]. Newsis. 
  5. ^ Oh, Wonseok (2014-04-02). "서울시'타요버스', 이렇게 찾아요" ['Tayo bus' of Seoul city, find this way]. Bloter. 
  6. ^ Song, Hwajung (2014-10-31). "롯데월드몰, 그랜드 오픈 기념 이벤트 풍성" [Lotte world mall grand open was well received]. Asia Economy. 
  7. ^ Oh, Daeseok (2014-12-28). "8조 캐릭터 시장, 도약하는 토종 캐릭터" [8 billion character market, Growing domestic character]. Business Post. 
  8. ^ 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). 
  9. ^ 한국콘텐츠진흥원 (Winter 2017). "2016 캐릭터 산업백서 (2016 Character Industry White Paper)". 국내 캐릭터산업 현황 (Current State: Domestic Character Industry). 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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). 
  12. ^ 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). 
  13. ^ 강, 현주 (Summer 2009). "호돌이, 1983". 한국의 생활 디자인. 
  14. ^ 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). 
  15. ^ 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). 
  16. ^ "Korea NO.1 Character Kakao Friends". Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. 

External links[edit]