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Korea Occupational Agency Report Paints Tragic Picture for the Health of Webtoon Artists

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A Korean survey finds that webtoon creators are suffering physically, mentally and emotionally from an industry that routinely overworks its artists.

Webtoon artists are tragically sacrificing their health, and in some cases, their lives, for their works, as reported by a survey.

According to the results from a survey conducted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, released on Jan. 5, 2023, webtoon artists have reported suffering from depression, anxiety and insomnia as well as poor health due to being overworked. The survey interviewed 320 full-time artists who made more than 500,000 won or more for the past year. While this isn’t necessarily new information, the stats depict just how dire the situation is for webtoon creators.

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The Terrible Effects of Being Overworked

As translated by Manhwa Bang, 28.7 percent of webtoon creators “have depression, compared to the national average of 7.7 [percent].” Creators were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders “if the artist received negative comments.” As the popularity of a webtoon is directly correlated to a work’s success, it leads to artists including more cuts in their works, thus developing “muscle disorders, and other body illnesses […] due to long periods of sitting.”

The survey results found 17.3 percent considered committing suicide, compared to the national average of 10.7 percent, with similarly higher percentages in those who said they planned to commit suicide and those who reported attempting suicide.

Juniljus, the artist for Roxana, took a hiatus in August 2022. The artist wrote on Twitter about the debilitating health effects she suffered from long hours of work and had a miscarriage due to “abnormal uterine bleeding” after her producer denied her a break. According to Hankyoreh’s article about Solo Leveling‘s artist’s death, Naver Webtoon and Kakao Entertainment claims that they have regulations to support writers. The secretary general of the Webtoon Writers Union, Ha Shin-ah, said, “It is important to institutionally guarantee the artist’s right to rest and health.”

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According to the survey, 22.5 per cent of respondents said their monthly minimum income was less than 500,000 won (less than $400 USD) with 40.9 per cent reporting they made between 500,000 to a million won (less than $800 USD). A 2021 Webtoon Artist Survey found creators worked an average 10.5 hours a day over an average of 5.9 days in a week, and 17 percent reported working more than 14 hours a day at times.

On July 25, 2022, Redice Studio announced the death of Solo Leveling‘s artist Dubu at the age of 40. The notice said the artist suffered a chronic illness, leading to a brain hemorrhage that ultimately took his life.

Source: Twitter, via Kyunghyang Shinmun and Hankyoreh

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