South Korean animation nominally began with a commercial for Lucky Toothpaste in 1956. However, it is usually agreed that it really began with the production of Hong Gil-dong, the country's first animated feature by Shin Dong Woo of the Shin Dong Hyun brothers (S. Korea's answer to Walt and Roy Disney), adapted from the Hong Gil-dong the Hero comic strip by Shin Dong-won. It was produced by Seki Production and directed by Shin Dong-Heon. Hong Gil-dong achieved tremendous success after its initial premiere on January 21, 1967, sparking public interest in S. Korean animation. After one more film, however, the Shin brothers' success ended due to a dispute with their distributor.
There were several factors that influenced Seki Producttion to finally produce this first Korean animated feature. First was the considerable success of re-introducing several classic animated features (mostly Disney ones such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Peter Pan) to a new generation. Second was the screen quota system that required some movie theaters that generally played foreign films to screen Korean movies around 60-90 days out of a year. Because Seki Production (who owned many of those theaters) wanted something exciting to run during those times in order to minimize the loss of revenue, they turned to animation as the answer. Third was the harsh censorship enacted by the new Motion Picture Law that somehow did not apply to children's movies.
Hong Gil-dong soon was followed by Korea's first stop motion animation, Heungbu and Nolbu, directed by Kang Tae-wong, on June 30, 1967. Other notable animation features include Hopi and Chadol Bawi (1967), Golden Iron Man (1967), Son O-Gong (1968, a Korean-Japanese production), The Golden Bat (1968), General Hong Gil-dong (1969), Treasure Island (1969), Prince Hodong and the Princess of Nakrang (1971), Lightning Atom (1971) and War of the Monster (1972).
After that brief expansion, the market for S. Korean animation rapidly shrank as the country was flooded with foreign animated films and TV shows until the arrival of one of the most beloved S. Korean animated films, Robot Taekwon V, directed by Kim Cheong-gi, in 1976. The animation productions then became more abundant, and during 1976 to 1985 there were 62 animation features produced.
Animation production then shifted to TV series to serve the growth of tourism regarding two international sports events that were being hosted by South Korea: the Asian Games in 1986 and the Olympic Games in 1988. KBS produced the first Korean animated TV series, Wandering KKachi, in 1987.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the South Korean government implemented a ban on Japanese media, including newspapers, magazines, movies, television programs and manga.note S. Korean animation was in its infancy during this period. Many examples of early S. Korean animation incorporated unauthorized uses of Japanese anime characters and likenesses. For example, Space Black Knight featured characters that looked exactly like Amuro Ray, Char Aznable, Sayla Mass and Dozle Zabi of Mobile Suit Gundam. In Space Gundam V, the protagonist mecha was an unlicensed version of the VF-1J Valkyrie from Super Dimension Fortress Macross.
Another important note regarding animation development in Korea was the growth of animation industries that did the subcontracting work for overseas productions, most notably for American and Japanese studios. (In a couple instances, these same studios produced films directly plagiarized from anime that was subcontracted to them. For example, Toei outsourced some of Video Senshi Laserion to Korean studio Dai Won, who then made a Laserion ripoff called Video Ranger 007 which reused not only designs, but also animation from the original. This also happened with a Korean ripoff of Gatchaman II called Eagle 5 Brothers which copied entire scenes from the series and condensed them into a 70-minute film.)
With the rising cost of living in South Korea, Western producers decided to shift production to lower-cost areas such as China and Vietnam in the 1990s, and consequently the animation industry in Korea faced great turmoil. Although several studios managed to retain contracts for high profile animations such as The Simpsons, Futurama, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, it became evident that the only way to survive was by developing original productions.
Recent developments in S. Korean animation parallel those in the country's industrial policy, which is noted for government working hand-in-hand with the private sector. The most impressive example of this collaboration was SICAF, where attendance was over 300,000, once again illustrating the great interest in locally-made product. The S. Korean government also sees animation as the most competitive industry for the 21st century. To demonstrate their confidence, it has provided tax breaks by changing animation's industrial classification and providing services to producers—two changes which clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to the field.
In contrast to Japan, Korea rarely adapts its manhwa into animated form. However, Korea has been responsible for countless animated series from around the world, most coming from Japan, making it undoubtedly the largest supplier of television animation in the world. Industry estimates are not always precise, but no one would argue that in peak production years the country's production houses can turn out over a thousand half-hour (22 minute) episodes. Despite being the largest producer of animation for television, Korea's animation industry has acquired the unique distinction of its domestic animation being dominated by feature films.
Like a lot of things in Korea, a bulk of the animation studios are located in Seoul.
Korean Animation Tropes
- Animation Age Ghetto: Despite the large volume of animation S. Korea produces, almost all of it produced for the Korean market is made for kids. There are exceptions, though, such as Seoul Station and The King of Pigs.
- Animesque: After having done animation segments for Japanese shows for so long, it is no wonder there is such an influence.
- Super Robot: Many earlier Korean animations are just this.
- Toilet Humor: Koreans are more keen on this than the Japanese.
- Hong Gil-dong (1967) - South Korea's first animated feature.
- War of the Monsters (1972)
- Iron Man 007 (1976)
- Robot Taekwon V (1976) AKA Voltar The Invincible
- Taekwon Boy Maruchi and Arachi (1977)
- Golden Wings 123 (1978) AKA Goldwing
- Starland Trio (1979)
- Super Manzinger 3 (1982)
- Solar Adventure (1982)
- Computer Nuclear Warship Bombing Operation (1983) AKA Savior of the Earth
- Super Express Mazinger 7 (1983) AKA Protectors of Universe
- Space Gundam V (1983)
- Super Titan 15 (1983)
- Phoenix Robot Phoenix King (1984) AKA Defenders of Space
- Video Ranger 007 (1984)
- King Robot (1985)
- Micro-Commando Diatron-5 (1985) AKA Space Transformers
- The Adventures of Lotty (1990)
- Blue Seagull (1994)
- Super Child (1994)
- Armageddon (1996)
- The Last Warrior Ryan (1997)
- My Beautiful Girl Mari (2002)
- Oseam (2003)
- Wonderful Days (2003) AKA Sky Blue
- Hammerboy (2004)
- Empress Chung (2005)
- Aachi and Ssipak (2006)
- Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox (2007)
- Mug Travel (2007)
- The King of Pigs (2011)
- Leafie, a Hen into the Wild (2011) - One of South Korea's most recent and successful films, especially on an international level.
- Space Black Knight AKA Captain of Cosmos
- Speckles: The Tarbosaurus (2012)
- Miniforce: New Heroes Rise (2016) - prequel to the 2014 Miniforce animated TV series listed below
- Seoul Station (2016) - A prequel to Train to Busan released in the same year
- Lost in the Moonlight (2016)
Animated TV shows
- The Adventures of Koby & the Oakey Dokeys
- Aqua Kids
- BAS To F Lemon
- Bellbug Popo
- Black Rubber Shoes
- Chiro and Friends
- Cloud Bread
- Cubix: Robots for Everyone
- Dooly the Little Dinosaur
- Fire Beadman
- Flowering Heart
- The Flying Superboard
- Ghost Messenger
- Guardian Fairy Michel
- Hello Jadoo
- Iron Kid
- Jang Geum's Dream
- Koongya Koongya
- Lazenca: Revival of a Myth
- Legend Of Blue
- Magic Kid Masuri
- Mask Man
- Medical Island
- Mental Rope (Hang On in English)
- Mix Master: King of Cards
- Noonbory and the Super 7
- Olympus Guardian
- Penking & Liking
- Petit Petit Muse
- Pororo the Little Penguin
- Princess Pring
- Rainbow Ruby
- Restol: The Special Rescue Squad
- Revbahaf Kingdom
- Robocar Poli
- Rocket Boy & Toro
- Rolling Stars
- Running Man
- Shadow Fighter
- Space Gundam V
- Super Wings (South Korean-Chinese-American co-production)
- Taeng-gu & Ulasyong
- Tai Chi Chasers
- Tales of Greenery
- Tank Knights Fortress
- Tayo the Little Bus
- Tickety Toc
- Tori Go! Go!
- Turning Mecard
- Wandering KKachi
- White Heart Baekgu
- Yoo Hoo And Friends
- Yorang-Ah Yorang-Ah
- Doggy Poo
- Mad Monkey
- Squirrel and Hedgehog, a North Korean animated series