BUCHEON, Gyeonggi Province -- From the webtoon series “All of Us Are Dead” (2009), “Dead Life” (2018) and horror thriller “Train to Busan” (2016) to the Netflix series “Kingdom” (2019), South Korea’s zombie content have become popular for their bone-breaking portrayals of the undead, thrilling action sequences and desperate survival stories.
Author Lee Myeong-jae, however, impressed viewers around the world by presenting a new twist to the genre with the webtoon "We Are the Zombies," in which the characters willingly lock themselves in the country’s biggest shopping mall to live alongside zombies.
“I never intended to take a different approach just to be recognized as someone special. I wanted to make a humorous, heartwarming webtoon series from the start,” up-and-coming webtoon creator Lee said during an interview with The Korea Herald at the Korea Manhwa Museum in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday.
Explaining that he was greatly influenced by “Zombieland,” an American zombie comedy film from 2009, Lee said he was surprised that a zombie project could be funny and entertaining.
“Many disaster films present characters who try to escape from catastrophic situations. But I wanted my characters to have a choice between breaking free from a confined space and living inside a zombie-filled shopping mall,” the author said, adding that this unique setting naturally led the story to be different from other well-known zombie series.
The webtoon centers around Kim In-jong, a young man who unknowingly becomes surrounded by the zombies while playing a VR game in a shopping mall. The author introduces unique characters -- an army deserter, a murderer, an exhausted student, a wanted criminal and more -- and humorously explains why they make the unusual decision to stay with the zombies.
The project was named the grand prize winner of Naver Webtoon’s “The Greatest Webtoon Contest,” an annual webtoon competition that provides amateur artists an opportunity to debut on the service’s cartoon platform.
With its entertaining story and witty depiction of society, Lee won the young cartoonist award at this year’s Bucheon International Comics Festival as well.
Presenting speedy scene transitions with lame jokes and suggesting a new survival strategy -- a sloppy disguise -- amid a zombie apocalypse, the author hoped to make readers smile. He added that he does not want readers to laugh out loud, but instead to feel at ease as they read on.
“I am a big fan of sitcoms, so it will be a great pleasure to see my work make the jump to a comedy series in the future," Lee said.
"I actually thought of actor Choi Woo-shik while drawing Kim In-jong in ‘We Are the Zombies.’ It would be great if he takes the lead role,” the author said with excitement.
Though he does not have plans for a new project, Lee said that his goal is to expand his range and work on different genres, including romance, drama and sports.
Lee is set to return with “We Are the Zombies” in October -- the series has been on a break since July.
The comedy action webtoon is serviced in Korean, French and Thai in Naver Webtoon.