While it’s been a long time since I’ve translated “articles” about photoshoots of Korean women in bikinis for the purposes of learning Korean, I’m still always on the lookout for more stimulating study material than the temple tours, making kimchi, and the joys of wearing a hanbok that are the normal fare for Korean textbooks. I’ve also long lamented that comic books known as manhwa are largely considered a child’s pursuit in Korea, whereas tens of millions of Japanese adults from all walks of life read manga daily (it would be interesting to learn why), and so I am happy to report that I have finally found poptoon (팝툰), a bi-weekly, book-like collection of over a dozen comics (plus columns and articles) for only 3300 won, in its own words “full of things that children don’t know are fun for adults” (“아이들은 모르는 어르의 재미 팝툰”), and which I’ve been happily getting stuck into on my daily commute for the past month or so now.
Don’t be misled by the attention-grabbing image above though, not actually from one of the comics but merely the artwork that accompanies a regular column called “pop-ing city,” albeit a spunky one that in the first edition I bought happened to be about one-night stands. In fact, although most of their female characters do tend to be on the voluptuous side (not that there’s anything “wrong” with that), most of the comics in it—ranging from Korean-style slapstick comedy, critiques of Lee Myung-bak, and gangster stories to science-fiction, and with very different artistic styles—barely so much as mention any sexual subject at all, let alone have any risqué pictures in them, and in fact I’ve only ever come across one panel that I’d rather the halmoni sitting next to me on the bus hadn’t had seen, and even that one simply of a nude woman (albeit spreadeagled) being painted by an artist. But once you know which regular cartoons with the rare *cough* naughty bits are, then it’s a simple matter to avoid brazenly sharing them with your fellow commuters (source, right: dableman).
The downside of that variety is that there’ll undoubtedly be some comics among them that you simply don’t like, and I’d have to admit that at the moment at least there’s about half that I’d happily have removed for the sake of having something less tiring to hold. But still, there’s plenty in each edition to keep me occupied for two weeks, and my own personal favorite cartoonist in it is 하혜연, whose comics seem to have a focus on early 20-somethings pondering their pretentiousness and angst, something which I still happen to be rather good at. Regardless of what particular comic does it for you though, naturally the language used in all is very contemporary, with slang that you won’t find in any textbooks but which you’ll be very likely to encounter in your daily life.
To see what it actually looks like, and get a little more information about its contents (albeit all in Korean), go to its homepage here. I’d be surprised if your local bookstore didn’t stock them, but the ones in mine do seem to disappear pretty quickly!