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Manhwa (Hangul:만화) is the general Korean term for comics and print cartoons (common usage also includes animated cartoons). The Chinese characters for Manhua (漫畫), which also make up the Korean word, are the same kanji that make the Japanese word Manga. Outside of Korea, the term usually refers specifically to South Korean comics.
Korean manhwa style is generally more realistic and less cartoon-like than manga. In manhwa, hair is more natural than the exaggerated spiky style of hair exhibited in many manga. Also, in contrast to the large-eyed non-ethnic characters in much manga, manhwa faces often show stronger evidence of an Asian ethnicity. Korean manhwa are also more creator-driven than Japanese manga, which are heavily shaped by editors. Thus manhwa has more of the creators' input and artistic vision. Manhwa are often created by a team of the writer and the artist, whereas manga are created by, or at least credited to, a single Manga Ka. Manhwa tend to focus more on story whereas manga focus on characters.
Manhwa are read left to right like Western comics, as opposed to Japanese manga and Chinese manhua, which are read from right to left. Though Korea's manhwa industry is relatively young compared to other asian comics, the manga and manhwa industries can now be considered equal competitors, like "different brands of the same product." While there are manga titles published in South Korea (mainly Shounen titles), the reverse is very rare, but there are exceptions, such as Shin Angyo Onshi
There are six genres of Korean manhwa:
- Sunjeong (or Sunseong) Manhwa (romance comics) - equivalent to Shoujo Manga
- Children's manhwa with humor and adventure
- "Indie" manhwa with refreshing new ideas and views
- Korean Webtoons made to be posted on the internet
- Political manhwa
- Animated cartoons (Hanguk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon)
There are now a number of publishers specializing in English translations of Korean comics, and by and large they are unafraid of calling them "manhwa."
Publishers of manhwa in English:
- Dark Horse Comics
- IceKunion See Yen Press
- Infinity Studios
- Tokyo Pop
- Yen Press
It should be noted that there are multiple systems for romanizing hangul (although South Korea has officially adopted one particular system), so the exact spelling of non-standard Korean words and names varies from translator to translator, particularly in scanlations. Therefore, Spell My Name with an "S" is quite common.
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