Illustration for article titled How to Break into Korean Webcomics: Be a Lonely Teenager

Not everyone’s path to their dream career is the same. For Korean comic creator Sungtaek Lim (aka Narak), it literally involved being a stranger in a strange land.


Born and raised in South Korea, 20-year-old Lim immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. Over four years, he made three series: She Is Sherlock Holmes, Meister, and July 7 Story. All Korean web comics.

I work with Lim on his newest comic series UNBOY. During a phone conversation, he told me about not only how he became a comic creator but how he decided to take the leap into the American comic industry. This is his story.


As a teen, I took risks to find where I belonged.

At 16, my family and I moved from South Korea to America. None of us really knew any English. None of us had jobs. We had some family here already, but it did not completely ease the burden of rebuilding our lives from the start.


I did not want to move to America at all. Just a year prior I had submitted some work to a publisher that was looking for science fiction and fantasy novels. The winning entry would receive a publishing contract for an eBook release. I had never written anything creative before, but I took that risk anyway.

I submitted. And it won.

Receiving that kind of validation felt fantastic. I wanted to build on that feeling and the opportunity this win afforded me. But then we moved to America...


As a teen, I found living in Virginia challenging. I put myself out there but made few friends. I had almost no common ground among my classmates in high school. I often felt embarrassed when I tried to socialize. I could not even pronounce the names of candy bars at the convenient store correctly. I felt frustrated. Most of all, I felt lonely, like I didn’t belong.

A very vibrant form of media in South Korea are webcomics. Competition is high among creators and publishers alike to produce compelling work. It is very hard to break into the industry even if you live in South Korea. It is next to impossible to break in to the industry if you do not live there.


So, as an isolated, lonely teen, I decided to get involved in webcomics.

I networked with Korean artists, reached out to publishers, practiced drawing, and created proposals. I didn’t give up. And it worked. A publisher picked up my series July 7 Story.


While other high school kids played in garage bands, attended football games, or worked in fast food, I worked in webcomics. I did my homework, wrote scripts, studied for tests, and drew layouts. It is a uniquely stressful experience trying to produce a 24-page comic under deadline while studying for an algebra test.

Ironically, by the time I graduated high school, I found my place. I was a Korean comic creator - one that happened to live in America.


I’m 20 now. I go to college. I’ve made some good friends, and I still work in comics. But I’ve never made an English language comic before. UNBOY is my attempt to get involved in making English language comics. UNBOY is a 100+ graphic novel about video games, super powers, and colorful battles. But it’s also about taking risks and finding your place in an extraordinarily different world.

If you want to read some of his previous work in English, a quick google search of ‘Meister Narak’ should bring up an English fan translation of Meister. If you want to help Lim debut his first English language comic, check out his Kickstarter.


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