Hallyu, also known as the “Korean Wave”, continues to have a rippling effect as it spreads stronger and farther across the globe. Korean television series, many of which form the basis of the Hallyu craze, are immensely popular even overseas. One such series is Misaeng, a drama about the worries, joys, and sorrows of white-collar workers. Upon its release, the drama struck a chord with people of many languages and nations and has become a phenomenal international success.
What many people don’t know, however, is that the show was originally a comic. The comic was so popular among people in their teens, twenties, and thirties that it was made into a Korean drama series and is still currently being exported throughout the world.
Though Korean dramas get much of the attention from overseas fans, Korea has a long proud history of comics and animation, and even ranked third in the world (following the US and Japan) in terms of comic revenue in the 1970s-80s. In the past, the Korean animation industry was dominated by subcontracted work from foreign sources, mainly due to Korea’s low labor costs. Today, however, the animation industry in Korea is characterized by skillful works of art based on technology and featuring original characters and story lines. These cartoons have been successful not only in Korea, but also abroad; in particular, “Pororo the Little Penguin”, dubbed “Korea’s Mickey Mouse”, has been a beloved character among Korean children for several years. The pudgy little penguin is so popular that he is often given the title of president (daetongryeong in Korean) for children and is lovingly referred to as “Potongryeong”. In addition to Pororo, the Korean animation industry has seen a number of hits including “Robocar Poli”, “Tayo the Little Bus”, “Lava” and “Tobot”, and the more recently popular “Turning Mecard”.
In celebration of Korea’s unique animation culture, the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival (SICAF) is held every May in Seoul for a period of six days.
Everybody who is anybody in the world of animation—from cartoonists and cartoon publishing companies to animation studios, animators, and professors of cartoon and animation at universities—can be found at the SICAF, which has gained a reputation as Korea’s greatest cartoon and animation festival.
The festival features an array of cartoons screenings, cartoon exhibitions, events, and conferences. The SICAF is among the world’s top five animation film festivals, and more than 1,000 film entries are submitted from around the world each year. Established in 1995, the SICAF celebrated its19th anniversary in 2015 and continues to grow in popularity, attracting more than 300,000 visitors in the past two years.
The SICAF is held in the Seoul Plaza, the center of Seoul’s administrative district, and Myeong-dong, the heart of the city’s tourism culture. Its main stage, corporate booths, and event stages can be found in the spacious grass field at Seoul Plaza, and host a variety of events throughout the festival period. Highlights of the festival include talk shows by cartoonists held on the main stage and cartoonist autograph events, cartoon auctions, and live drawing shows held at the event stage.
One of the major attractions of the SICAF for true animation fans are the world-famous animators in attendance. These celebrated animators bring with them their unique cultures, ideologies, and art philosophies which they incorporate into their works of art to share with all who are interested.
Offering a truly different experience than U.S. and Japanese animation, Korean animation challenges both the creator and viewer to think outside the box. Visit the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival for a rare look at Korea’s best and most creative minds and its diverse animation production techniques. This is an excellent opportunity to gauge the level of Korean animation.