Webtoon, Tapas: Are Korean Comics Obsessed with Revenge?
Korean comics are possibly the most-read comics in the world right now. Between WEBTOON and Tapas as apps on people's phones, manhwa is reaching tens of millions of readers worldwide, far more than manga or DC and Marvel comics. When you read enough of a particular country's stories and pop culture, you start to see the themes the culture is more obsessed with. In Korean comics, the most common theme is REVENGE.
Korean comics for men and boys are awash in revenge than comics for women. They're frequent about getting revenge against bullies. Nearly all the manhwa series set in high school involve violent bullies and the desire to get revenge against them. Manga from Japan for both boys and girls are also full of stories about high school bullies. For Japan, it's usually about a lack of empathy and a need for it so that everyone can get along. In manhwa, it's less about everyone getting along than about getting back at the bullies and hurting them back until they beg for mercy. Weak Hero, Teenage Mercenary, Shotgun Boy, Get Schooled, Viral Hit, To Not Die, It's Mine, A Useless Villain, The Predator, the list goes on and on. If you pick a Korea title at random on WEBTOON, chances are it will either have bullies as a storyline or the main plot. Even the women's romance series mentioned above all involve bullies in their stories.
There are many adult romance manhwa for women, set in both medieval fantasy worlds and the contemporary world. The majority of them are variations of a common plot: the heroine has been wronged and seeks revenge against the former boyfriend or family that screwed her over, and in the process falls in love with the new guy who might be helping her. Series like I Wasn't the Cinderalla, Your Throne, The Remarried Empress, It was All You, From a Knight to a Lady, Perfect Marriage Revenge, to name just a few, all have that plot. This is only a small selection of titles, but it's already consistent in its theme use. They're interestingly subversive fairytales of feminist empowerment, featuring heroines who choose who to marry instead of having it forced upon them while also plotting against their enemies.
All this suggests a massive bullying problem in Asia, especially South Korea and Japan. In the case of Korean comics, they're shown as particularly vicious, sadistic, and aggressive. You might be led to believe that South Korea is full of horrible assholes who deserve to either be beaten to an inch of their lives or murdered. The comics shamelessly manipulate the readers' bloodlust and thirst for violent revenge, which suggests that a sadistic asshole has bullied everyone at some point in their lives. Either that or comics are created by the kids bullied in school, which is their ultimate revenge and therapy. Comics are not necessarily accurate depictions of society, but they're direct expressions of issues on everyone's minds. They're not documentaries but barometers, expressing what's often unsaid in polite society. That's the immediacy of pop entertainment.