Petersen – University of Copenhagen

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Martin Petersen:Mad cows and other relays’ – The politics of current South Korean webcomics

With the South Korea manhwa industry partially moving its market onto the web a range of professional and non-professional manhwa artists have begun to explore the potentialities of the web for impacting the political process. This feature of the Korean web comic is particularly manifest in the so-called ‘webtoon-relays’ in which comics artists in interaction with shifting social movements present comics on specific social and political issues. Among these relays are the ‘Anti-impeachment relay’ (2004), the ‘Mad Cow relay’ (2008) and the ‘MB Bad Laws relay’ (2009), which all counter and contest conservative politics in South Korea.    

A central question raised by these activities is how the web comic is connected with the appearance of new forms of on/off-line social movements in South Korea in the early 21st century. As such the project is closely related with current research on the formation of civil society and democratic transfigurations related with the internet.

Dealing with this issue, the paper examines the South Korea web relay cartoon as a socio-cultural manifestation. It combines a close reading of the ‘Mad cow relay’ and ‘MB Bad Laws relay’ with an analysis of its circulation, reception and impact on the issue. The paper is empirically based on on-line debates triggered by the web-relays, its coverage in other media as well as an interview with Kang Do-young (artist name: Kangfull), one of the main figures on the webtoon-relay scene.