Webtoon artists in South Korea are sacrificing their health and, in some cases, their lives for their work, according to a survey conducted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency. The survey, which was released on January 5th, 2023, interviewed 320 full-time artists who had earned more than 500,000 won or more in the past year.
The results of the survey paint a tragic picture of the health of webtoon artists in South Korea, with many reporting suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other health problems due to overwork. While it’s not new information that webtoon creators face challenges and pressures, the data from this survey shows just how severe the situation has become.
An eye-opening survey on the health conditions of webtoon artists conducted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency was released on January 5th. It paints a dower picture on the life of the average artist. This comes on the heels of two major cases of overwork pic.twitter.com/ptdporywXo— Manhwa Bang (@Manhwabang_) January 6, 2023
The Tragic Consequences of Excessive Work
Webtoon creators in South Korea are facing serious health challenges, with 28.7% reporting that they have depression, compared to the national average of 7.7%. The survey also found that webtoon artists are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders if they receive negative comments on their work. The pressure to be successful can also lead to artists working long hours, which can result in muscle disorders and other health problems due to extended periods of sitting.
In addition to these physical health problems, the survey found that 17.3% of webtoon creators considered committing suicide, compared to the national average of 10.7%. Similarly, higher percentages of webtoon artists reported planning to commit suicide or attempting suicide.
The effects of overwork and pressure on webtoon artists have been well documented, with Juniljus, the artist for “Roxana,” taking a hiatus in August 2022 due to the debilitating health effects of long work hours. Juniljus even suffered a miscarriage due to “abnormal uterine bleeding” after her producer denied her a break.
Despite these challenges, both Naver Webtoon and Kakao Entertainment have claimed to have regulations in place to support writers. The secretary general of the Webtoon Writers Union, Ha Shin-ah, has emphasized the importance of “institutionally guaranteeing the artist’s right to rest and health.”
According to the survey, 22.5% of respondents said their monthly minimum income was less than 500,000 won (less than $400 USD), and 40.9% reported making between 500,000 to a million won (less than $800 USD). These low incomes are often the result of long work hours, with a 2021 survey finding that webtoon artists worked an average of 10.5 hours a day over an average of 5.9 days per week. In some cases, artists reported working more than 14 hours a day.
Tragically, the pressures and challenges faced by webtoon artists can sometimes have deadly consequences. On July 25th, 2022, Redice Studio announced the death of Solo Leveling’s artist Dubu at the age of 40. The notice said that Dubu had suffered from a chronic illness, leading to a brain hemorrhage that ultimately took his life.
In conclusion, the new survey conducted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency provides a sobering look at the challenges and struggles faced by webtoon artists in South Korea. From poor mental and physical health to low incomes and even death, the consequences of overwork and pressure in this field are severe and cannot be ignored. It is crucial that steps are taken to address these issues and protect the well-being of webtoon creators.