My Top Korean Webtoons of 2019

새해 복 많이 받으세요! Happy New Year! Wishing you a 2020 that is healthy, happy, and bright. And full of excellent webtoon obsessions.

In the aftermath of Spirit Fingers ending, it was hard to find new webtoons to pore over—but here they are. The webtoons that I spent 2019 devouring. And fortunately, many of them will continue to be released in 2020.

그래서 나는 안티팬과 결혼했다 So I Married An Anti-Fan

Did you know this rom-com webtoon was originally a novel by Kim Eun-jung? It was adapted into a Chinese movie and is slated to be developed as a K-drama in 2020. The webtoon art is by Jaerim (재림), and the text is by Eunsol (은솔).

I haven’t read the novel, but the art of this webtoon has me swooning. This is a delicious bibimbop mixed with steamy glances, enemies-to-lovers tropes, a contract relationship that steadily develops into something real, protagonists living together, dark secrets, and high-quality artwork.

Plot? We’ve got it. Character development? Yes. Eye candy? Mmhm.

Hoo Joon

Status: ongoing

English translation: yes

Synopsis: Hoo Joon is a K-pop idol making waves around the world, but he harbors a painful and unresolved past—and he’s trapped in a mysterious contract with his agency’s manipulative CEO. When Lee Geun-young, a reporter, clashes with him multiple times in public, a cascade of unfortunate events turns into an unusual opportunity for both of them: a reality TV show. If the show is a success, Hoo Joon can bolster his image, and Soo-young can recover her career. There is one problem—they hate each other’s guts. And neither of them plans on actual feelings developing…

But often, life doesn’t go as planned.

Where to read

  • Naver Webtoon (Korean — support creators by reading here)
  • IsekaiScan (English translation up to Ch. 28 as of January 2020)*
  • Mangabat (English translation up to Ch. 28 as of January 2020)*

썸머 브리즈 Summer Breeze

Han Kyoung Chal, the creator of Spirit Fingers, returned in 2019 with a short summer special (less than a dozen chapters), and we are not worthy.

Picture this (and it is picturesque indeed): city girl stuck unexpectedly in the countryside of her childhood. Half-forgotten childhood friends. A future nationally-ranked taekwondo athlete who fell in love with the slightly older granddaughter of his neighbor and never forgot her. The grumpiest, chonkiest, wonderful-est cat you ever did see. A grandma whose time on Earth isn’t quite done. And the realization that your dreams can be pursued at any age.

Did I mention this is a low-key noona romance with a tall, brooding athlete?

Status: complete

English translation: yes

Summer Breeze is a short but achingly sweet and nostalgic tale that takes place over the course of a too-short summer. While the conclusion is fairly open-ended and such things usually drive me crazy, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Would I love a webtoon that picks up where this ends? YES. But I’m so glad this one exists—and it’s nice to breeze through it when you need a pick-me-up.

If you want something to warm your cold and gray January and February days with the hope of spring and the memory of days long gone, Summer Breeze is perfect.

Where to read

  • Naver Webtoon (Korean — support creators by reading here)
  • Manhua Scan (English translation up to Ch. 3 as of January 2020)*

원수를 사랑하라 Love Your Enemy

Only 17 chapters are available so far on Naver Webtoon, but I’m hooked. The premise is intriguing to say the least.

Nonreligious but aptly titled after a Bible verse (Matthew 5:43-44), this campus romance features an older female college student who is getting her degree after going straight into the workforce as a high schooler. It’s prime time for her to make a fresh start. But she’s trapped between the tiresome politics of campus life and the constant glare of a younger male student who seems to despise her with every inch of his tall, muscular self.

To be fair, she used to be a professional scammer who was mixed up in a pyramid scheme that involved his mother. Obviously the best way to deal with these issues in one fell swoop is to pretend to be in a relationship with him, right?

It’s not like real feelings would ever develop out of a fake relationship with your enemy. Right? Right.

To make matters worse, someone seems to be following her. Is it one of her former scam victims, an unwanted suitor from campus, or someone closer to home?

Status: ongoing

English translation: unknown

I’m not sure where this story (which might also be a novel adaptation?) will head next, but I’m looking forward to finding out in 2020.

Where to read

갓도령스 Gat-Doryeongs (The Divine Bachelors)

Let’s just call this a historical fantasy K-pop idol star crossover bonanza and be done with it, yeah?

This rom-com webtoon follows the exploits and misadventures of four flower boys in Joseon-era Korea. There is definitely a b-boying masked dancer and a flamboyant fashionista of a leader. It throws in a commoner who is a young woman dressed as a boy with a topknot and completes the group with a confused nobleman who is desperate to understand a wise man’s mysterious warning: He will fall in love with a person with a topknot.

You can guess what that might mean.

I’m still feeling out the story, but so far I haven’t thrown in the towel. K-pop idols in Joseon? Let’s see where this goes.

Status: ongoing

English translation: yes

Where to read

밤하늘에 구름운 Clouds In The Night Sky

Possibly the gamer-in-real-life fantasy romance I’ve been longing for. Publication began at the end of November 2019, and there are only six chapters released so far, so it’s too early to tell. But my fingers are crossed.

If you enjoyed Sword Art Online (anime), Memories of Alhambra (K-drama on Netflix), or Love 020 (both the C-drama and movie version are on Netflix), you’ll probably like this. Our protagonist, Seo Yoona, is an online gamer confronted in real life with her NPC companion—a long-haired martial arts dream of a man who catches pigeons and doesn’t quite agree with gravity.

Why is Cho Nakwoon, an NPC, dashing about Seoul like an actual human and not a string of code? Let’s read on in 2020 to find out.

P.S. There may or may not be an accidental shirtless embrace within the first few chapters.

Status: ongoing

English translation: first chapter

Where to read

What webtoons did you love in 2019? And what are you looking forward to reading in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

* Still looking for webtoons in translation? A good place to start is the international platform for Naver Webtoons, which hosts fan-translated webtoons in a variety of languages. Special thanks to Odessa Denby, writer, professional editor, and knower-of-Korean-things extraordinaire, for the recommendation!

* I only read these webtoons in Korean. I have not read the non-Korean translations linked here and provide them only to assist webtoon fans who don’t understand Korean. If you have a better site to link to or have found problems in quality with the sites linked here, please let me know in the comments. In particular, if a site is one that steals from other translators, please let me know so I can take it down.

Additionally, if you run a translation team handling fan translations of the webtoons in this post and need help, please reach out. I am a professional Korean-English translator and enjoy doing volunteer work, too! I’m not joking—I’ve been a volunteer translator for Humans of Seoul for the past four years.