If some of us aren’t waving light sticks up in the air for our K-pop idols or gushing over our K-drama biases, it’s not because we’ve been living under a meteor-sized rock. Hallyu just hit us differently so we learned about oppas and noonas while curled up under our blankets, basking in the glow of our smartphone screens as we obsessively refresh for updates on our favorite webtoons.
The term “webtoon,” a portmanteau of the words “web” (as in World Wide Web) and “cartoon,” originated from South Korea to mean digital comics in vertical format, making it easily readable by scrolling up and down a smartphone or a computer. Many online comic libraries like the globally popular Line Webtoon (a subsidiary of Naver Corp. that was originally launched in South Korea as Naver Webtoon), though, feature not just manhwas or Korean-authored comics but also works by creators from all over the world.
Replete with romantic stories of the isekai—in which characters are transported to another world—or the contractual marriage variety, there is nevertheless something for everyone. In fact, the vertical-scroll format lends itself particularly well to high-action scenes, jump scares, record-scratching shockers and sweeping scenery. Sometimes, episodes even come with music that can be played while reading, infusing scenes with life and bringing the entire experience to a whole new level.
Here are some favorites that are currently running on the site/app:
“It Was All You” (sci-fi)
Created by I Soon Ki; OH5HO
Biomedical engineer Dr. Yuri Lee is tasked to test the latest clone prototype designed with a capacity for unconditional love. However, mind-blowing revelation after mind-blowing revelation soon turns her already bizarre world upside-down.
“Everything is Fine” (horror)
Created by Mike Birchall
Muted pastels and cute cat mascot heads do little to quiet the spine-tingling chill this story delivers. In fact, these might actually add to it.
“7Fates: Chakho” (fantasy)
Created by HYBE
This urban fantasy inspired by the chakhogapsa tiger hunters of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty features BTS as seven young men who end up coming together in their fight against the monstrous Beom that are wreaking havoc in the human world.
“Teenage Mercenary” (action)
Created by YC; Rakyeon
No. 1 mercenary killer Ijin returns to his long-lost family and tries to live a normal life as a teenager, but trouble keeps finding him. As he kicks and punches his way around town, he ends up endearing himself to unlikely characters, soon gaining friends, allies and admirers.
“Chasing Tails” (mystery)
Created by Bashi
Investigators piece together what really happened when nine students were trapped in a collapsed building for 14 days that led to three gruesome deaths, putting into question everyone’s motive and if there was really no one else with them in that dank, dark space.
“Death: Rescheduled” (thriller)
Created by Snailords
In a world where everyone gets to commit murder once a year repercussion-free, a group of deviants (those with supernatural abilities) sets off to abolish the Kill Law in all five districts. But it turns out that not everyone’s willing to give up the century-old custom.
“Seven Years Later” (drama)
Created by Tirapuw; hievasp
Kala runs off to Bali with her friends despite her father’s explicit forbiddance and disappears for seven years. To her, hardly any time has passed and she struggles to make sense of a future that unfolded without her as well as her newfound ability to travel through time.
“Daily JoJo” (romance)
Created by Donggeon Lee
An exception to the vertical-scroll format rule, it delivers unique and quirky takes on everyday occurrences. Even as it’s tagged as a romance, the story dives into many other genres—like sci-fi, action, historical, school life—to demonstrate the characters’ thoughts and interactions to hilarious results.