Understanding Webtoon’s Informal Learning Aspects: How Audiences Learn Korean Culture and Language Through Reading Webtoons

Posted in: Funded Research and Initiatives

Point of Contact: Hyerim Cho at hyerimcho@missouri.edu
A relatively newer format of storytelling and visual narrative medium, Webtoon, now has 55 million global users monthly from 60 different countries with 100 billion views annually. Webtoon has become an international phenomenon due to its rapid growth and popularity among global fandom. While there have been theoretical efforts to understand Webtoon’s characteristics as a transnational communication medium, such as understanding its phenomena from a lens of the Korean Wave (Hallyu), there is a lack of empirical studies that understand the real, international audiences of Webtoon. Comic books and graphic novels have been proven to be effective tools for learning literacy and understanding diverse cultures and subjects. Their unique format characteristic combines visual cues and textual information, creating an ideal literacy learning environment. In addition, authors of this medium from diverse backgrounds have encouraged their audiences to experience various cultures and historical moments secondhandedly. For this reason, many educational institutions and libraries in the United States have incorporated comic books and graphic novels in their social, historical, cultural, and language programs. The current research project looks at Webtoon from this perspective; this project aims to understand American audiences’ motivations for reading Webtoon and Webtoon’s informal learning aspects regarding the Korean language and culture.