Passengers watch their smart devices as they wait for the train a subway station in Seoul, Tuesday. / Korea Times photo by Baek Byung-yeul
Web-based cartoons, dramas dominate digital users' pastime
By Baek Byung-yeul
To respond to the needs of busy digital users on the go, media content providers are releasing more cartoons, dramas and novels short enough to be viewed in under 10 minutes on mobile devices.
The local press calls this phenomenon "snack culture," a Konglish term referring to media content that are as accessible and fast as your regular snacks.
"My smartphone helps me endure the tedious commute as I can enjoy a wide range of media content," said Kim, who declined to give his full name, on a train headed to City Hall Station in Seoul, Tuesday. Kim commutes to work by subway, and it usually takes about 70 minutes door-to-door.
Among the different kinds of media content, Kim is addicted to "webtoons" or free online comic strips. Kim said he has enjoyed various webtoons, ranging from the country's biggest portal Naver's (www.naver.com) sleeper hit "Sound of Mind" to "Misaeng," another hugely popular work provided by Daum (www.daum.net), one of the country's top portals.
Cartoonist Yoon Tae-ho's "Misaeng"
"The greatest advantage of Internet cartoons is that many of them are free. They are also funny, so I cannot stop reading them," Kim added.
The figure shows the growing popularity of webtoons ― the number of daily viewers of Naver's webtoons averages more than 6.2 million, according to the company. The rise of webtoons, which have been regarded as part of a sub culture, has enabled them to be assimilated into mainstream.
"Misaeng," depicting the precarious lives of Korean office employees at a cut-throat trading company has had more than 600 million hits, and will be adapted to a TV drama.
Web-based drama series are also vastly popular genre of snack culture. Each episode runs for about 10 minutes.
Naver's drama series "Aftermath"
A notable success is "Aftermath," launched by Naver last January. The thriller, starring popular boy pop band ZE:A's Kim Dong-jun as a protagonist, is based on the Internet cartoon of the same title, and has garnered more than 3 million viewers with 11 episodes.
"Podcasts" or Internet radio shows have also been emerging as another snack culture.
Park So-young, an office employee living in Seoul, said she listens to podcasts when commuting to work for "self-improvement."
"There are slew of inspirational podcasts. Also, I can catch up on domestic and foreign current events on politics and become more cultured through history podcasts," Park said. Park's favorite show is "Morning News Paper Briefing."
Emceed by Kim Yong-min, a political pundit and producer of Internet-based liberal news media company Kukmin TV, the 30-minute-long radio show, summarizes top news of major newspapers. It airs everyday from Monday to Friday.
The show is currently ranked fourth in the top 1,000 category of Podbbang, (www.podbbang.com), one of the popular podcast providers. "Some may say that the show is left-leaning, but I think it is a necessary alternative in today's media environment," she added.
The government recently issued a report analyzing the snack culture boom, defining it "one of the noticeable social phenomenon in 2014."
"The so-called snack culture is a result of digital users' desire to view cultural content briefly on the go rather than making time for cultural activity," the report said. "It shows creating cultural content is no longer the exclusive property of certain experts."
According to local advertising company HS AD's recent survey of 1,000 people, Koreans use their mobile devices about 3.34 hours on average while they spend about three hours watching TV and about 48 minutes using personal computers. Koreans don't read much anymore. The average daily reading time of Korea last year was 23.5 minutes, the lowest ever, according to a survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.