A recent Korean language report on the mental and physical health of webtoon creators has some alarming statistics. The basics of the report were translated and tweeted by the account ManhwaBlog. (“Webtoon” is a generic term that refers to comics formatted for mobile comics apps; Line WEBTOON is just one such publisher, and we’ll refer to it as that to avoid confusion.)

Webtoon creators are under huge pressure to turn out work regularly, and the grueling deadlines and low pay have been pointed to as contributing to the health issues for two well known creators. Solo Leveling creator and Redice studio head Sung-rak Jang died last year from a brain hemorrhage connected to a chronic illness. According to ManhwaBlog, “Some in the industry say that this occurred due to poor work conditions, despite the existence of labor unions.”

Roxana by Juniljus

Also last year, “Roxana” artist Juniljus suffered a miscarriage following overwork and editorial pressure, and the series has been halted due to her health issues.

These are only the most visible cases in an industry that demands overwork from creators – much like the Japanese manga industry which has been notorious for its grueling hours for years.

According to the study, ManhwaBlog tweeted:

28.7% of Webtoon writers that responded to the survey have depression, compared to the national average of 7.7%

2. 17.3% had suicidal thoughts, 8.5% planned it, 4% tried it. Nationals averages being (10.7%, 2.5%, 1.7%) respectively

3. Depression, Anxiety, & Sleep disorders were more likely to be diagnosed if the artist received negative comments.
4. The average amount of cuts per chapter is 60-70, this only includes sketches, not detailed art, or coloring so the real number is around 3 times that.
5. muscle disorders, and other body illnesses were high due to long periods of sitting.
Web platforms are growing but so is anxiety about impressing readers, so authors are including more cuts. 6. 51% said their income was between 2-4 million won (1600-3200 USD)
The number of writers surveyed was 300 and they had to at least make 500,000 won (about 400 USD) last year.

As shocking as the depression stats is the low amount of money made by these creators – $400 a year. ONe assume this workload is in addition to some kind of day job. 


Webtoon translator Han Oh provided more stats from the report to the Beat:

Interviewee: “I feel like I’m going crazy. I’ve started taking medication because I thought I’d kill myself if I kept going like this, and I’ve half given up on my series. I don’t know a single artist who doesn’t have depression, but I know a few who’ve yet to receive treatment.”

Frequency of diagnosed disorders:
-Dry eye syndrome (92)
-Depression (54)
-Other (49)
-Sleep disorder (44)
-Anxiety or panic disorder (43)
-Digestive disorder (37)
-Cystitis (32)
-Hyper tension (21)
-OCD (17)
-PTSD (14)
(note that this means there are overlapping diagnoses)

-25.7% of respondents have taken a break due to health problems, and 40.7% have continued working despite having health problems
-28.7% of respondents have symptoms of depression
-28.2% of respondents experience insomnia

Average working time:
-9.9 hrs a day
-11.8 hrs on the day before the deadline
-5.7 days a week

-96.6% of respondents feel both mental and physical exhaustion from work; 29.4% report feeling constant physical exhaustion and 32.6% report feeling constant mental exhaustion
-63.5% of respondents make a minimum of 1m won or less per month (~$800 USD)
-66.6% of respondents make a maximum of 4m won or less per month (~$3,200 USD)
-The average monthly salary in South Korea is about $2,546 USD

Most popular causes of work intensity/stress:
-The number of cuts per chapter (41.5%)
-Short deadlines (37.5%)
-Pressure from the platform or studio (26.9%)
-Amount of coloring required (24.7%)
-Competition between creators/series (17.2%)

-30.8% of respondents say that they usually do not get time off when they request it; 16.4% say that they never get it when they request it
-69.2% of respondents report feeling anxious if they think about deadlines even if they’re not on a deadline

-67.6% of respondents say they feel like they never have enough time to do their work
-57.7% of respondents say they often feel pressured to work overtime
-66.6% of respondents say that their workload has become more difficult over the past few years

Obviously these are very disturbing trends. The responses on Twitter were full of corroborating anecdotes such as this:

The original report can be read here, and more on the death of Jang (aka Dubu) here.

Juniljus tweeted a long thread in Korean about her situation, some of which can be read here. There are several Reddit posts about the matter, but this one seems to sum it up:

The translator writes: “She had a miscarriage, and had to be carried out by an ambulance but her producer refused to change the launch date. She was working while bleeding. Meanwhile she later learned that the reason why her producer is being changed is because she took a parental leave. She also wrote about working while getting 2 hours sleep, along with other challenges.”

This is horrifying. No one should be treated like this.

More art by Juniljus

The still growing popularity of webtoons around the world is one of the biggest trends in comics as the moment, but there is still a big gap in covering the field. Line WEBTOON, Tapas and emerging players like Manta tout incredible readership numbers, and issue an endless sream of upbeat news. For instance, just yesterday Wattpad Webtoon Studios, the media arm of Line WEBTOON, announced they were signing with talent agency UTA. Line WEBTOON PR releases tout 72 million monthly active users (14 million in the US), and revenues of $100 million per month. According to a Line WEBTOON release received this week, they “paid out over $27 million to English-language creators since 2020, an average of more than $1 million per month.”

Tapas parent company Kakao just announced that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Singapore’s GIC invested $964 million in the company’s entertainment arm. And another study shows this to be a $28 BILLION dollar industry by 2028. 

While 9 figure revenue numbers are being tossed around liberally, missing in all these numbers is hard information on how much money webtoon creators actually make. The numbers that we are seeing – about depression and suicidal thoughts – form a dismal counterpoint to the overall webtoon success story we usually get.

There’s a lot more to say about this – US creators aren’t quite as harried as manga and webtoon artists seem to be, but there are notorious stories like Master of Kung Fu artist Gene Day who died of a heart attack at age 31 due to an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle fashioned in pursuit of deadlines.  But most people make comics out of love, not for the money, which has remained incredibly stagnant for 20 years or more. 

While the webtoon success story has made most of the headlines up until now, I have a feeling we’re going to start seeing more about the creative end of things in ’23. Sadly, the manga industry’s demanding schedules seem to be par for the course – even Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece, the most popular comic in the world, complains about getting only three hours of sleep a night. While getting more humane working conditions for webtoon creators might seem like a long shot, at least we an be informed about the price that’s being paid for our entertainment.

If you or someone close to you is experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline








  1. “US creators aren’t quite as harried as manga and webtoon artists seem to be”
    We just don’t talk about it in fear of retaliation and blacklisting, as the industry is much smaller.

  2. If you think north American artists aren’t harried, I urge you to look at the open letter to Webtoon by the creator of Lovebot.

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