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More Webtoons Are Expected To Be Adapted Into Films, Dramas And Web Dramas

BY Julie Jones | Jun 25, 2015 10:14 AM EDT

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With the news that the popular webtoon "Awl" is being adapted into a k-drama by JTBC, it may be time to consider the trend of adapting webtoons into films, dramas and web dramas.

Are they always successful? Can we expect to see more adaptations?

Recently the cable station JTBC talked to the Korean media outlet OSEN about their plans to adapt the popular webtoon "Awl."

The producers hope to replicate the success of the cable drama "Misaeng," which focused on the difficult challenges faced by ordinary office workers. That drama, starring Im Si Wan, Kang So Ra and Byun Yo Han, struck a chord with workers, earning exceptional ratings for a cable program and it won several awards.

JTBC hired film and drama director Kim Suk Yoon to direct the small screen adaptation of "Awl."

"The thrilling main storyline and other episodes from daily lives will create such a fun drama for any viewers," said a representative of the JTBC production team.

But does the popularity of a webtoon predict success? While some webtoon adaptations become a success, others don't.

It's true that loyal fans of a popular webtoon will tune in to see the drama adaptation. And one in three Koreans are said to read webtoons. But whether they keep tuning in depends, as with any drama, on the cast, the script and the production values.

The webtoon-based "Girl Who Sees Smells" earned popular support and peak ratings of 10.8 percent. It starred JYJ singer and actor Park Yoo Chun and actress Shin Se Kyung. "Flower Boys Next Door," starring Park Shin Hye and Yoon Shi Yoon was also considered a ratings success, selling streaming rights to Japan for a record amount.

But other webtoon-based dramas were not so successful. Even top stars in the cast did not help them score decent ratings. "Hyde, Jekyll and I," starring Hyun Bin and Han Ji Min, did not do well when compared the similarly themed "Kill Me, Heal Me," starring Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum. "Hyde, Jekyll and I" averaged 5.3 percent.

"Tomorrow Cantabile," despite the star power of Joo Won and Shim Eun Kyung" and a successful Japanese drama version faltered, averaging 5.9 percent.

"Pretty Man," starring Jang Geun Suk and IU, also did not succeed ratings-wise, averaging 4.3 percent in the ratings.

But these ratings shortcomings will not stop future adaptations into k-dramas. And there will be more webtoons to base them on. According to Arirang News the number of webtoons will double in size by 2018.

"The popularity of some webtoons are already publicly proven, so they are considered a very safe bet by film producers," said Oh Dong Jin, a film critic, in an interview with Arirang TV.

Some webtoons are being adapted into web dramas.

For example, the web drama "Love Cells," which starred Kim Woo Bin and Kim Yoo Jung, is based on a webtoon that ran from 2010 to 2012. According to Korea Biz Wire, it has had more than a million views.

The next drama to bring a webtoon character to live in a traditional k-drama format will be "The Scholar Who Walks The Night," starring Lee Jun Ki, Lee Yu Bi and Lee Soo Hyuk. Followers of the webtoon will not be able to resist a peek at Lee Jun Ki's portrayal of the vampire character. But will they stay around for the rest of the story? What do you think?

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