Webt-who? A Study on South Korea’s WebToons

Our DA studies a new format of comic books that are digital and vertically-composed. Originating in South Korea, WebToon as a platform has expanded into a global cult favourite amongst illustrators and audiences and has changed the way we enjoy comics forever.

Conducted by Claudia Muller (5397212), Mona Fakhry (5476938 , Misha Goldrick (5139284), Matilda Jesiolowski (5632572), and Ray Duy Hải Nguyễn (5508551), we collected our data across our twitter accounts (which you can find on this twitter list), and assembled our findings into our very own, self-created Webtoon which you can find here: (best read on a mobile device for true WebToon experience!

Asia One, 2016, ‘It’s time for webtoons to go global in 2016′,

Dispatch & SBS 2018, ‘Top 5 Webtoons That Were Made Into Movies’, 18 May, viewed 6 October 2018, <;

Jenkin, H. 2007, ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’, [online]

Kim, M 2015, ‘ ‘Webtoons’ become S Korea’s latest cultural phenomenon’, Al Jazeera, 1 July, accessed 7 October 2018, < 6 53457.html>

Lehar, J 2017, ‘Webtoons – a daily treat in South Korea’, Tuned in Asia, 21 July, accessed 8 October 2018, <;

Republic of Korea, 9 July 2010, Korean wave, hallyu in Singapore, CC BY-SA 2.0
Jung, H 2015, ‘South Korea ‘webtoon’ craze making global waves’, Business Insider, 24 November, accessed 7 October 2018, < = AU&IR=T>

Rich, J 2017, ‘America’s New Cultural Invasion Is Manhwa, Korean Webcomics’, 18 November, viewed 5 October 2018, <;.

Sohn, J 2014, ‘Korean webtoons going global’, Korean Herald, 25 May, accessed 7 October 2018, <;

Won, H.L 2017, ‘Why South Korean Filmmakers Are Adapting Local Webtoons Into Movies and TV Shows’ , Hollywood reporter, [online] movies-tv-s hows-1054466

Individual responses to the burning of various incenses

Tamara’s personal experience:

  •      During the incense burning, I felt an openness of the mind and a sense of connection with my surroundings at the time
  •      I found that the different scents gave me different thoughts, perspectives and reactions
  •      The more natural and perhaps subtle smells definitely gave me a sense of peace and tranquillity while the more harsh smells did not give me that same sense of connection with my surroundings and nature
  •      Different scents made me tune in to my surroundings more and take note of things such as birds and other sounds
  •      Overall, I can understand why incense has such a strong history in religion and social contexts as I too felt a sense of connection and peace that is often associated with religion and notions of a higher order


Ruth’s personal experience 

When we lit the first incense stick it was quite a nice scent, it was the pure agarwood. Personally, I’m not much of a ‘scent’ focused person. I don’t really use many candles and have only seen incense in those spiritual shops or in certain restaurants. I did like it; I felt it was very relaxing. The second stick (sandalwood) was quite similar, It smelt natural. The third, which was chakras, I didn’t find it as nice as the others. It smelt a little soapy and unnatural and much stronger than the other ones. We were unsure if it was a traditional scent from India and we have this certain idea of what they should smell like or if it might have been an adapted one for less traditional consumers. For the last stick of incense, we were completely silent. This made the experience very calming as we were also outside on the grass and in the sun. It was very pleasant. Although it was nice, I probably wouldn’t do it often or every day like some people do however it is understandable of how there are spiritual and mental to the act. 


Sophie’s personal experience 

I’ve used incense before, for the most obvious reason – fragrancing an area or space. But I hadn’t ever experienced a feeling of calm. Most of the time, I put incense on and leave the room. However, burning incense in the outdoors made me more aware of my surroundings and immediately, I felt at ease. Proving my research to be correct. The differing scents had unparalleled effects. Some were so strong that my head would ache, whilst others were the opposite. Despite being a shared experience, it was unique to the individual in terms of one’s reaction and overall opinion.


Kate’s personal experience 

I was expecting the incense to set off my hayfever, it is often set off by strong scents such as perfume. Thankfully this didn’t happen. I liked the scents and they made me feel relaxed. I can’t confess any sort of spiritual experience but I did feel relaxed. It was nice to sit and listen to the sounds of nature. Curiously I was left feeling light-headed something that lasted for a while.


Eliza’s personal experience 

I bought an array of incense types for the practical task of burning the incense, some traditional such as agarwood, sandalwood and frankincense, and others based on the attractive scent or type of packaging I feel had been customised for westernised societies. The first stick we burnt was the pure agarwood, it was potent in its intensity but I enjoyed the scent and it gave me a nostalgic feeling of the holidays I took as a kid to a beautiful Buddhist retreat on the north coast. It could have been the memories or the familiarity with burning incense but it was an overall pleasurable experience burning this incense. I felt pretty well calm the whole way through burning the rest of the incense as it’s something I personally burn in my room all the time, it also reminds me of home because my mum always used incense.. whether it be while she meditated, general relaxation while cooking dinner and listening to folk, or just to make the house smell oh so good. One of the packets labelled ‘7 chakras’ claimed to help make zodiac predictions come true.. I found this a commercialised form of incense, a tactic to get people to buy it, and the smell of the packet alone was similar to a recently cleaned bathroom. I found by the end of the experience, which I think is noticeable in my body language seen in the video, I was calm and relaxed. The day had been non-stop up until that point and it allowed me some time to zone into my surroundings and be present in the moment.

Cooking with Blake, Tanae & Cassie

Welcome to our group digital artefact!

We all can’t deny that we all love the good spontaneous take-away Chinese meal to save ourselves from doing our own cooking. There are always a huge variety of things to choose from, it’s cost-friendly, it’s an extremely easy process (either you pick it up or pay that little extra for delivery) & it’s seriously tasty.

Chinese cuisine has been around in Australia basically since the 1850s and we can thank Chinese immigrants within the Gold Rush era for that.

In the first half of the 20th century the Chinese restaurant was one of the most visible symbols of cultural diversity in Sydney” – B. Nichol, National Library of Australia Presentation.


The overwhelming majority of Australia’s original Chinese community came from Kwangtung Province (located in Southern China) with its distinctive Cantonese cooking style based on fresh fruit/vegetables, fish, poultry and pork. Rice was also grown in large amounts and was served as a nutritious base for a variety of food combinations, with herbs and spices.

Majority of this was happening in Melbourne (presumably because this is where the Gold Rush took place) and it had great substantial growth.

  • 1930’s: 18 Chinese cook-shops/restaurants listed in trade directories
  • 1970’s: 150 Chinese restaurants operating in the city and suburbs of Melbourne
melbourne china town

China Town in Melbourne

Cantonese food that was available in these restaurants was extremely approachable due to the emphasis on freshness of produce and its large palette.

The dishes were a variation on the theme – now sometimes referred to as ‘chop suey cuisine’. Thus fried rice, sweet & sour pork, lemon chicken, and chow mein (without any mein ((noodles)), became the signature dishes of ancient and refined cuisine” – Annette Shun Wah, Sydney Morning Herald.

Chef Neil Perry feels as though we as a country are eating more and more authentic and regional Chinese food. This is due to the Australian citizens becoming more adventurous when it came to the cuisine. Due to this Chef’s have started to slightly change the recipes on some of our favourite recipes and dishes to give them new flavour and to make them healthier.

Thus being the reason why we decided to experience some of this traditional Chinese (Australian) cuisine in all of its glory. By actually COOKING IT. Yes, that’s right. We actually went and bought the ingredients, followed a recipe and successfully cooked a meal.

authentic traditional chinese food

The three of us came together due to our love for Chinese cuisine and inability to cook it. So we all agreed we needed to try something new and we got our chef on after researching about the history of the food here in Australia.

We chose to cook a simple, yet traditional and highly popular *Lemon Chicken*. Our reasoning for this was because we wanted to cook something that would be a recognisable dish to everyone, we all were familiar with it and enjoy eating it cooked by a restaurant, and neither of us had never cooked a traditional Chinese dish before which was our main point of this as we wanted to try something new and push ourselves a little bit.

We found a recipe online and we gathered the ingredients required. The three of us documented ourselves turning Tanae’s kitchen completely upside down cooking to produce what you’d probably call a ‘short cooking segment’ that you’ll find on youtube.

We didn’t want to create a cooking tutorial, we just wanted to document our experience on cooking the dish for the first time. So rather than teaching people how to cook the dish through our actions we show you how we taught ourselves with only ONE TAKE!!!

Obviously the footage was edited to shorten it because cooking the dish actually took a lot longer than expected. I promise though you’ll still get to see the good parts.

We all felt as though this was a really eye opening experience even though its something so simple. We really enjoyed the process of bringing our dish together and doing something out of our ordinary. Would we do it again? Yes, highly likely, although we would probably try something new next time and something maybe a little less time consuming. Either that or we will have much better time management in the future.


Give it a watch and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Group Members:
Blake Sykes
Cassandra Bradley
Tanae Armstrong



Maxabella, B 2018, ‘A (brief) history of Australian food,’ SBS, 21 June,

Nichol, B (insert date here), ‘Sweet and sour history: Melbourne’s early Chinese restaurants,’ National Archives of Australia,

Savill, J 2013, ‘Canto Cool,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September,

Shun Wah, A & Aitken, G 1999, Banquet: ten courses to harmony, Doubleday, Sydney.




South Korea’s Illegal Tattoos – A Look Into the History & Culture

Getting a tattoo is illegal in South Korea.

Well… Not quite. It’s not illegal to have a tattoo in South Korea and it’s not technically illegal to get one in Korea, but “under criminal and medical law, only licensed doctors can perform tattooing on their ‘patients.‘” There probably isn’t a single person on Earth who would go through medical school to become a tattoo artist. Despite this illegality, Korea has a thriving underground tattoo artist scene.

Many tattoo artists promote themselves on social media. Many more tattoo artist accounts have conspicuously been deleted or are private (img src: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7)

But there’s also a lot of stigma surrounding tattoos in Korea. Vice magazine published an article (our first encounter with Korean tattoo culture) interviewing several female tattoo artists about some of the difficulties they’ve faced:


How do people react when they see your tattoos?

“People typically avoid me when they see me on the street. Some people are fascinated by my look, but most feel uncomfortable and scared.”

How has having tattoos affected your day-to-day life?

“[…] My parents are also very devout Christians and their church has stopped me from coming to services because they feel like I’m sort of “satanic” being with my tattoos.”



Considering the nation’s rise as a cultural powerhouse (through K-Pop and K-Drama) and how trendy it’s pop culture scenes are, we were shocked that something like tattoos would be illegal and so heavily frowned upon.

So the two of us decided to do some research into South Korea’s tattoo culture. After looking into the history of tattoos in Korea and the perspectives of some Korean natives, we realised that the treatment of tattoos isn’t too different from experiences in our own lives – it’s just more intense in Korea.

We’ve collected highlights from our discussion & perspectives in this podcast:


History – Criminal Stigma

In South Korea tattoos are traditionally associated with criminals and gangs – and there’s a history behind this.

Sometime during Korea’s Goryeo era (918 A.D. – 1392 A.D.) the practice of tattooing criminals with their crime’s was adopted from Japan. This continued into the Joseon era (1392 A.D. – 1910 A.D.) before falling out of practice (Park, 2016). In South Korea tattoos still carry this criminalized stigma. Some people feel uncomfortable around tattoos, people with tattoos (or visible tattoos) are not allowed in most Korean bathhouses, and they can impact your chances of employment.

In our experience as Australians, we’ve noticed that this same stigma can be found (although it’s much less common). There are plenty of people who will be uncomfortable around or avoid people with particular types of tattoos, due to concerns about criminal connections. Neither of us really carry this perception, but we’ve definitely heard it expressed.

Ideology – It Disrespects Your Parents

What most surprised us about Korean views on tattoos, (as expressed in the recorded interviews below) was the idea that tattoos are damaging the pure body that was gifted to you by your parents.

In our experiences as Australians, individuality and independence from one’s parents is encouraged. The idea of not getting a tattoo because you owed your entire body to your parents seemed almost absurd.


How does your family feel about your tattoos?

“My parents are both preachers and they believe that your body should be a temple of God. Needless to say, they were shocked.”

What is it like being female with tattoos in Korea?

“There’s an expectation for girls to be modest and demure, but I think it’s such a double standard.”







How does your family feel about your tattoos?

“My dad still doesn’t know that I have tattoos. I only visit home during the winters or when it’s raining so I can wear a sweater or jacket and cover up. I wear a lot of long dresses too.”

Do you think the perception towards tattoos in Korea is changing?

“Tattoo culture is like fashion; it’s always changing, and changing quite rapidly. I just hope it changes for the better.”



But such devotion to one’s parents is deeply embedded within Korean culture, via the ideologies of Confucianism.

“Today, Confucianism is not a formal religious institution in Korea but rather a code of latent ethics and values that has profoundly influenced the society for nearly two millennia.” – Park & Cho, 1995, p.118

Confucianism promotes a strong hierarchical relationship structure in society – including the relationship between parents and children, also known as filial piety. This concept of filial piety (or hyo in Korean) encourages the reverence of one’s family and ancestors.

“Parents are revered because they are the source of your life. They have sacrificed much for you. One should do well and make the family name known and respected: bring honor to your family” (src)

So while this idea of getting tattoos as being incredibly disrespectful to your parents and family is still pretty foreign to us, we’re now able to understand that thought process. It would make a lot of sense to a society that’s been influenced by such an ideology for two thousand years – the criminal stigma surrounding tattoos probably exacerbate this perception of disrespect.

Conclusion & a Disclaimer

It’s important to note that neither of us speak Korean, and the vast majority of our sources have been mediated; they are largely created by outsiders (non-Koreans) or authentic Korean accounts have been presented to construct a particular narrative (as all media presentations do). While we’ve done our best to accurately research and present our findings, there is the possibility that we’ve misrepresented or misinterpreted things. But, well that comes with the territory of looking into a foreign country’s illegal underground subculture.

Either way, this experience has been enlightening. With the illegality and stigma in South Korea towards tattoos, but with their history and the longstanding moral virtues of the nation in mind we can understand it, even if we still disagree with it. If it were up to us we’d abolish the law outlawing tattoos artists’ work, but then, we’re outsiders to this culture. It’s hardly our place to make demands of the nation, is it?





Park, IH & Cho, LJ 1995, ‘Confucianism and the Korean family’ Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 117-134.

Park, J 2016, ‘Signs of social change on the bodies of youth: tattoos in Korea’, Visual Communication, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 71-92.



Going Out With a (Muk) Bang

Mukbang, Korean for ‘eating broadcast’, first arrived to the internet 10 years ago – and no one could predict the popularity it would garner. The mukbang has been defined as a ‘new and unique phenomenon developed in a specific socio-historical context of Korea’ which ‘breaks the norms of traditional food culture and challenges the social norms governing the body and subjectivity’ (Destefanis, p. 112).



Bonjourno, (just quickly, you should read this before you continue on here)

Set the task of exploring a facet of a culture previously not experienced, I opened up to a type of research that prompts the researchers vulnerabilities (Ellis et al. 2011, 14.1.18) and cultural frameworks to gather insights typically unattainable. My field site being cosplay and its anime adaptions, I quickly realised that by immersing myself into the experience I felt vulnerable and certainly out of my comfort zone. Whether that be the idea itself as a daunting action, concealing your own identity as another’s for costume play, or whether it be the unfamiliarity with the field site itself, I was acutely aware that I was letting my feelings, thoughts, and vulnerabilities influence the way the project was migrating (Ellis et al. 2011, 14.1.3), in a way that other forms of research methodologies would certainly not allow for.

This investigation into cosplay originally was rooted in personal experience, but when I found myself hesitating to participate I found myself redirecting towards a more niche area of study; whereby perhaps there was a middle ground to find, whereby I could create looks that were alike to the characters from Studio Ghibli films, designing them to look like everyday pieces or at the very least curating costumes from everyday pieces that I already owned. Could I find a way to interact with a culture I was trying to understand in a way that was part of my own cultural framework?

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Working in fashion retail and with a history of sewing projects behind me, could I take what I understood already and utilise it to imitate the feelings and processes associating with the action of cosplay? Furthermore, could I create a layered account of my experience by introducing my fondness and knowledge of anime produced by Studio Ghibli? These were all questions I set out to answer, and one that could only be facilitated by the means of autoethnography; a method whereby I could introduce an alternate voice amidst a construction of knowledge (Sturm, D. 2014).


As I went on to have my first swing at cosplay, or whatever it was that I deemed a variation of it, I began to realise that the research project was as much about myself as it was about the topic; “..autoethnographies offer a diverse body of works, with many often producing essentially autobiographical accounts of the self as both researcher and the researched” (Kien, G. 2007).

And so here I find myself, at a crossroads whereby I believe I have navigated down an alternate route, truly utilising my own cultural framework to gain a better understanding of other cultures around me. In translation, I will utilise the data I collect to create and curate wearable, everyday pieces that are cosplay, to a degree, and critically analyse the experience alongside further research into the area; a layered account (Ellis et al, 2011). The aspect to tackle now, I find, is distinguishing autoethnography as both a process and a product, a notion brought to my attention by both Ellis (et al, 2011) and Angus Baillie in our seminar conversation, and how they are to interrelate in this investigation.


All for now,


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14.1. Available at:

Kien, G., 2007 A Western Consumer in Korea: Autoethnographical Fiction of Western Performance, Cultural Studies ⇔ Critical Methodologies, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 264-280.

Sturm, D. (2014) ‘Playing With the Autoethnographical Performing and Re-Presenting the Fan’s Voice’, Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, pp. 214. Available at:

Reflecting on the process

Establishing a process for this research project has been majorly back-and-forth. Following suit in the method outlined by Carolyn Ellis in Autoethnography: An Overview has been far more difficult than first anticipated. I now recognise that even this reflection is part of the auto ethnographic process, as I’m analysing my own personal experience to understand the greater concept.


Here I refer to the constant train of ideas my brain would conceive around my research project of Luk Thung, which would eventually have to be brought to a halt for the ensuring that they matched the auto ethnographic process.

Too often I found myself venturing a ways down the ethnography path, without incorporating the essential autobiography aspect. Epiphanies were initially not recognised as key moments in the research narrative, but simply ideas that could be explored throughout my work.

My brain was working productively to – well – brainstorm ideas useful to research, but left behind was the acknowledgment and logging of those points in time where an idea or change was conceived or enacted.

I had actually drafted a whole blog post based around background information for Luk Thung, including its history and meaning, until I realised what I really needed to be doing. I started over, and documented the epiphany I had while watching Sita Sings The Blues, and how the process flowed from that point.

Sarah Wall said that during the process of writing Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography, revealed to her once again was the value of experience and reflection (Wall 2008, pg. 50). I feel I can appreciate this notion with Wall more wholly now, after being forced to repeatedly review my functions as an auto ethnographer, I now understand the value of the process, and the reflection of that process, rather than just the product.


An integral part of this process I’m blabbing on about is me. As I mentioned, there came a point where I had to begin my piece again, and part of starting again was questioning where I belong in the narrative. Luckily, the answer was music, which is something I not only feel comfortable discussing at length, but something I actually enjoy. Acknowledging the importance of the auto was an integral part of understanding and practicing the ideas that Ellis and Wall present.

The realisation of my part in this narrative has actually motivated me, due to the fact this is more-or-less the first time I’ve undertaken a research/study in such a manner. Auto ethnography as Ellis details it, provides opportunities for exploring worldly aspects in a way that incorporates the storyteller, which is exciting because in this particular case – given my love of music – I’m able to enjoy the process, making it easier to detail the process and product of the narrative.


Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2018). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at:  [Accessed 16 Sep. 2018].

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, [online] 7(1), pp.38-53. Available at: [Accessed 16 Sep. 2018].





Autoethnography: Japanese Horror Movie

Autoethnography: Japanese Horror Movie (continued)

Ray Nguyen

‘Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience’ (Ellis et al 2011)

In this blog, I will be analysing my narrated experience detailed in my previous blog post, which outlined my data collection regarding Japanese horror films and how it is structured by my own cultural framework.

The selection of my field site, Japanese horror movies, was based on an epiphany I had when I was a kid and spending a lot of time watching some horror movies from China, Korea and Japan. My first impression about Japanese horror movies is that they are very similar to East and South East Asian horror films. I think it is because there is some similarity in cultural tradition and religion, between Japan and other countries in the region, which is Buddhism. Besides, most of the Japanese horror…

View original post 759 more words

Luk Thung, Thai Funk, and Sita Sings The Blues

Initial experiences with my chosen field site in one word: Revelation.

Luk Thung, or literally translated to child of the fields, is the genre of Thai music I will be auto-ethnographically investigating, along with some of its relating and neighbouring genres. For lack of a better description, let’s call it Thai folk music, however I’ll later get into why I believe it’s far more than that.

You’re probably thinking, why the hell would someone choose to investigate Thai folk music? Sita Sings The Blues, that’s why. However, please don’t be mistake – I despised the film. I wholly and openly accept there was probably a deep and well thought out plot beneath the madness, however my brain simply couldn’t handle the visual mess the film presented, destroying any opportunity to enjoy – or even understand – the film. There was just one element that saved it for me, one element that could even be enjoyed if one shut their eyes (ขอบคุณพระเจ้า), and that’s the soundtrack of Annette Hanshaw.

(Peep a taste of the film and Annette Hanshaw’s work)

I’d like to think I’m a wide listener of music as a whole, and this film’s score only widened that listening scope. Although Hanshaw is American, AND the music she produced for SSTB has some strong Western influece, it’s the sound she birthed for this film that inspired my research. My ears sent thanks for the warm production pairing beautifully with the bright, angelic vocals, and it’s impossible to not love plentiful use of the sitar.

Enough drooling, now some inspiration had formed. I searched high and low for the genre I wanted to look at, until I finally landed in South-East Asia. The epiphany came while listening to the record of one of my favourite bands in the world – Khruangbin. They actually genre themselves as Thai Funk, which isn’t exactly Luk Thung, but there’s some undeniable links there.

(Enjoy them on this funky number via Night Time Stories)

For the sake of a flowing research process, I’ll be limiting my field sites (as the scope of the genre is rather broad) to some of the sub-genres of Luk Thung that are a little more niche, and contain some interesting links to my own personal tastes.

My main focus will be a record, or compilation, called The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam in Thailand 1954-1975. It’s more-or-less a mixtape of traditional Luk Thung, along with some groovy variations, some a little more jazzy, and some with a psych-rock edge you’d otherwise find on a Pink Floyd track.

I was able to give the compilation a thorough rinsing as my Sunday mornings are traditionally spent by putting on an album and listening through as I nurse a hangover or make a big breakfast, which is exactly what I did.

What’s interesting is my own pre-research interpretation of the sound of the songs (obviously not the lyrical interpretation as I don’t speak Thai) somewhat matched the supposed meaning of the music, which is hardship, pain even. It’s the music of the working people, those in the farm, or the field (child of the field)… and I felt that! Or at least something along those lines. I found it incredible that music with such beauty in the loud, high-pitched vocals can carry such a melancholy meaning.

This is something I look forward to investigating further through my auto ethnographic research, because:

  1. The music rules
  2. The music rules
  3. I want to know more about Luk Thung and the craziness in its history and meaning.

Stay tuned Thai jazzers…