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K-Fantasy

We Invite You to a Special Universe that No One's Ever Dreamed of

 

2021.09.06

 

"If I had magic..." Everybody must have imagined becoming a magician as a child. We make so many unrealistic things possible thanks to the imagination. We fly through the sky, and we walk under the sea. Korean fantasy began to flourish when computers and the Internet began to be distributed across the country in the mid-1990s. As novels serialized on online platforms that only provided writing and reading services gained more popularity and proved their commercial values, the publication of fantasy novels started to occur in earnest. Fandoms emerged as fantasy books were distributed to local book lenders in massive amounts. The spread of smartphones and tablets in 2010 led to the full development of fantasy novels and web-novels. Fantasy as a genre has been steadily gathering fanatics, expanding its universe and combining with other genres such as martial arts fantasy, romance fantasy, horror fantasy, and SF fantasy. The characters in the authors’ universes move back and forth between the real world and the fantasy world, giving vicarious pleasure and catharsis beyond our imagination. In particular, Korean fantasy presents a compelling universe with descriptions so vivid that things happen before our eyes thanks to the delicate emotional expressions specific to Korean writers. The authors also present a highly-anticipated and unpredictable K-fantasy universe, skillfully twisting typical clichés.

 

Korean fantasy is closely related to cyber literature serialized on online platforms.

 

The Power of a Special Universe and a Well-Organized Story: Traditional Fantasy

 

Fantasy novels embody distinctive features from the author, not to mention exclusive world views. In particular, traditional, full-length fantasy series are composed of various supplementary stories within the expansive universe, spanning across several episodes, unfolding the entertaining elements of the stories in a broader scope.

 

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Mukhyang, Dragon Raja, Children of the Rune

 

 

Mukhyang (Sky Book), the representative traditional Korean fantasy, is a combination of martial arts and fantasy consisting of four series. Mukhyang, the main character who lived 100 years traveling between the martial arts world Murim and the fantasy world after falling into a conspiracy, returns to Murim after decades to put an end to his grudge. He cleans up the chaotic central region on his way. While the first chapter is close to a pure martial arts story, fantasy elements begin to stand out from the second chapter, turning the story into fusion fantasy combining fantasy and martial arts. The dramatic and minute plot throughout the story and the extreme twist at the end add charm to the novel, making readers feel they have watched a historical drama.
Meanwhile, Dragon Raja (Goldenbough) is another representative Korean fantasy novel that has sold more than a million copies in Korea alone since its release in 1998. It is about the dragons, the last species to keep the star, and the adventure of Huchi and his party, taking place in the middle age. The book Dragon Raja is a high fantasy novel that presents a virtual continent where mythic animals and intellectual beings out of nature appear. It is said to have laid the foundation for the fantasy boom in Korea in 1998. With its literary values and philosophical elements, some of the book was even included in a literary textbook for Korean high schools in 2004.
The book Children of the Rune (Elixir) is a trilogy. It is a story of children fighting for independence in their lives in a continent where nations and forces collide countless times for a thousand years since the great ancient kingdom fell overnight and turned into barren lands. It is assessed to have drawn a line in the Korean fantasy world, with its beautiful universe, well-knitted storyline, and sophisticated writing style. As a million-seller that has sold more than 3 million copies around the world, you will recognize yourself finishing the last page without noticing it, absorbed by its immersive power.

 

Teen-Fantasy Soothing the Sensitive Minds of Teenagers

 

People read fantasy stories the most and have the biggest interest in the genre during their teen years. They are considered stress relievers, calming the sensitive minds of adolescents with healing stories they can empathize with.

 

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Dollagoot Dream Department Store, Cheonnyeonsoni Trouble-Solving Office, I’ll Eat Your Story

 

 

Dollagoot Dream Department Store (Sam & Parkers) begins inside a dream, a world in one’s unconsciousness. The most popular place in this unique village where only the asleep can enter is the Dollagoot Dream Department Store which sells all types of dreams. It is always crowded with people and animals wishing to buy dreams. The book seeks answers to the ingenious question of “what if dreams could be traded?” and features secret episodes of people who make and sell dreams.
Meanwhile, Cheonnyeonsoni Trouble-Solving Office (Hainaim) is an amazing adventure story featuring a human boy Jiwoo who has the special ability to see the “dark shadow” and "gumiho (a legendary fox with nine tails)" Suah – the Cheonnyeonsoni – traveling across Korean myths and legends. They take smart approaches whenever they deal with delicate cases to escape the dangers, and put their hearts into solving cases. What about getting into the fantasy world with the members of the Cheonnyeonsoni Trouble-Solving Office? You’ll find yourself smiling at the stories of Korean legends.
I’ll Eat Your Story (EZ Book) is the story of emotionless Sewol and Hyesung, a monster that chomps on books. One evening, Sewol finds Hyesung eating books in a corner of a library. He suggested devouring students' concerns instead to protect the books in the library, and established a counseling club. As counseling begins, many children come to Sewol and Hyesung with their worries. The way children solve problems that are difficult to be solved in reality with fantasy elements is particularly notable.

 

Korean fantasy for teenagers discusses problems that teens commonly experience through fantasy elements.

 

Korean-Style Fantasy Reflecting the K-Universe

 

A story’s worldview or the universe shows the author’s unique identity. For example, new types of characters appear in Korean-style fantasy – other than the familiar characters commonly seen in European fantasy such as dragons and trolls – including "dokkebis (Korean goblins)" and "imoogis (legendary snake-shaped creature in Korea)" based on Korea’s traditional myths or legends.

 

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Toemarok, The Bird that Drinks Tears, Only My Moon Will

 

 

The No.1 bestseller in Korean genre literature – Toemarok (Elixir) - is an occult urban fantasy. It features the adventures of four people who chase after surreal and bizarre cases fusing Korean myths, legends, and ghost lore with various religions and ideologies such as Taoism and Christianity. The adventure and various episodes of exorcists who stand up for the marginalized and suffering people in the chaotic world take place across the genres of horror, martial arts, history, and fantasy, taking your breath away.
Unlike the typical universe of traditional fantasy, The Bird that Drinks Tears (Goldenbough) introduces four tribes the author has created: the humans – the weakest among all, the Rekons – powerful but weak in unification, the Dokkebis - the most Korean-style characters, and the Nagas – a half immortal cold-blooded species. The falsely charged fugitives, the prosecutors, and the rescue team of other tribes intervening between them all reveal the conspiracy encircling the world.
Only My Moon Will (Goldenbough) is a new type of Korean fantasy novel that mixes Korean folklore with fantasy. The story begins when a tiger attacks a remote village engulfed by the tiger’s curse. The chief goes after the tiger but disappears. Shaman Cheoni, who has attained the public trust, persuades villagers that human sacrifice will be the answer, and sends unmarried women in the village to be the wife of the tiger. With the characters Heehyeon and Mohyeon, the book Only My Moon Will uses a good mix of elements unique to Korea such as "tigers", "shamans", "gut (exorcism)", and "imoogi." This suspense novel heightens the thrills as the “han (deep resentment)” of Heeyeon, who feels a burden on her shoulders as a mother, older sister, and the eldest daughter, intensifies to an extreme state. It is also a coming-of-age novel of her younger sister Mohyeon, who overcomes tough challenges and becomes capable of making her own choices.

 

While fantasy as a genre has risen as the mainstream globally, the number of publishers specializing in genre literature is steadily increasing along with the trend. They look for high quality through friendly rivals, and provide additional values by cooperating with OTT channels or game companies, offering more fun and pleasure. As everyday life continues to be boring and indifferent in the pandemic era, how about energizing yourself with fantasy, where your imagination becomes reality?

 

 


Written by Lee Ji-Hyeon

 

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Lee Ji-Hyeon

#Fantasy#genre literature#web-novel#OTT
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