If you’re wondering where the race for streaming IP is turning next, it might just be webtoons – and Kakao Entertainment is making a statement there. Both The Bequeathed and Gyeongseong Creature, which recently debuted on Netflix, are based on webtoons that originally ran on Kakao Entertainment and its US branch, Tapas. They join the worldwide smash Solo Leveling, which recently debuted on Crunchyroll.

Just to get some of the terminology straight, webtoon is a generic term for a vertically scrolling mobile-based comic. Line WEBTOON is the platform that runs them here in the US and in Korea, where it’s a division of tech giant Naver. Tapas is owned by Kakao Corp., a Naver rival and, interestingly enough, the originator of the format.

In Korea, a sizable percentage of TV shows, both live and animated, are based on webtoons already. And given the general influx of Korean culture to the US, some of those shows are beginning to gain traction on N. American streaming services. Kakao Entertainment is one of the biggest players in the Korean webtoon space with a library of IP ripe for potential adaptation. They already have 24 popular webtoons currently being adapted for TV in Korea, with more to come.

Solo Leveling: Season 1 - Release Window, Story & What You Should Know (UPDATED)

The action packed animated Solo Leveling is already a major hit in both Korea and Japan. It originally launched as a novel and then a webcomic on Kakao and the Yen Press edition has already been a best-seller in the US. The webcomic has  14.3 billion views worldwide. 

The series follows a fledgling demon hunter named Sung Jinwoo, who struggles to survive in a world full of demons. After surviving a killer dungeon, a mysterious program called the System chooses him as its sole player, giving him the rare ability to level up with unlimited potential and turn people into shadow minions. In the series, Jinwoo sets out on a journey to discover the secrets of the dungeons and find the source of his power.

A spin-off series called Solo Leveling: Ragnarok has also already been announced, which follows Sung Jin-Woo’s son, Sung Soo-ho, in the titular role. Solo Leveling is also working on extending its verticals, as it’s also recently announced that it’s creating a game based in its universe by the gaming company Netmarble, South Korea’s largest mobile gaming company.

Believe it or not, a live action version of Solo Leveling is also in the works

And the webtoon-to-animated feature pipeline grows: both The Bequeathed and Gyeongseong Creature recently debuting on Netflix…as live action series. 

THE BEQUEATHED Trailer (2024) With Kim Hyun-joo & Hee-soon Park - YouTube
Photo: Netflix/YouTube

The Bequeathed is a popular Kakao webtoon turned TV series starring Kim Hyun-joo, Ryu Kyung-soo, Park Byung-eun, and Park Hee-soon. Parts one and two are now available on Netflix. The series will also hit Kakao Entertainment’s platforms in the US, China, and Asia this month. 

Directed by the legendary Sang-ho Yeon, famed for his film adaptation of Train to Busan, the series takes a look at creating monsters out of mental illness using trauma and aesthetic storytelling to emphasize its maddening work. 

Its main character, Seo-ha, is a woman whose uncle has died and inherits land in the countryside used as her family’s graveyard. Learning about her family’s past, she uncovers sinister events and murders, recontextualizing all that she knows about her family’s legacy.

Watch Gyeongseong Creature | Netflix Official Site

Gyeongseong Creature has also announced a spin-off webtoon based on the Netflix series. The original survival-thriller Netflix drama is set in a hospital outside of Seoul in 1945, where two young protagonists face off against monsters born out of human experiments just after the horrifying atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese army against the Korean people.

This spinoff, entitled Gyeongseong Creatures: The Unwithering Flower, follows the story of Geum-ran, a girl who survives one of these transformations. She emerges as a creature with human intelligence, pondering what she is and what will come in this scary new world. Joined by her ally, Byeong-gil, she uncovers a conspiracy that ties into the original’s stories.

With Solo Leveling and All Of Us Are Dead, a high school zombie drama that originally ran on Line WEBTOON, becoming streaming hits worldwide, the influence of webtoons is only growing. How big it gets in the US will be one of the most interesting stories to watch in 2024.