Whenever the conversation of anime fan loyalty arises, it is no doubt that Japan, the root of all things anime, has a firm and at times, overzealous fan base. In recent decades, westerners, namely those in the US and Europe, has also begin to develop strong anime affinity. No doubt, Japanese anime is gaining global prevalence. However, one country that seldom gains any attention for having a Japanese anime fan base is actually much closer to Japan geographically than just about any other country.
The people of South Korea, as a whole, seems to lack the general craze and excitement toward anime compared to other countries. Some of this lack of interest could be attributed to a large collection of online Korean comics known as “webtoons”- a homegrown version of manga that appeals more to the everyday Korean than most Japanese anime. A quick tour around Seoul will also reveal that the type of entertainments advertised are mainly Hollywood films, online app games, and PC games such as StarCraft and League of Legends. The only Japanese anime that seems to be drawing significant attention is “One Piece” and not much else.
With all that being said, the first-ever Comic Con in Korea, held at the COEX convention center in Seoul from August 4th to 6th, was a big step toward permeating Japanese anime culture into Korean society. While the main attractions at Comic Con were still popular entertainment juggernauts such as Marvel Comics and Blizzard, as well as guest appearances from TV and movie stars Steven Yeun and Mads Mikkelsen, there were also a number of exhibitions that undoubtedly hailed from Japan, along with appearances by Toshihiko Seki and Soichiro Hoshi, two accomplished voice actors in the Japanese anime industry.
As much as the event provided the opportunity to expose the Korean people to Japanese anime, a closer look would reveal this as an uphill battle as a large portion of the attendees were actually foreigners. There were more people speaking English than Korean, and many of the hardcore cosplaying fans were also non-Korean. The number of people at Japanese anime-themed exhibits were significantly fewer compared to the multitude congregated at the Marvel related exhibits and merchandise booths. Apparently in this society, the Korean majority don’t seem to share the same anime enthusiasm as the foreign minority. There are signs of growing interest, but they are slow.
Unless, of course, we’re talking about One Piece.