Kakao Entertainment acquires web novel service company Wuxiaworld to grab N. American readers

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : December 16, 2021, 17:28 Updated : May 14, 2024, 09:28

[Courtesy of Kakao Entertainment]

SEOUL -- In a strategy to expand its global presence based on rapid growth in some Asian countries such as Japan and Thailand, Kakao Entertainment, a content and entertainment subsidiary of South Korea's social media giant Kakao, acquired Wuxiaworld, a U.S.-based Asian fantasy web novel platform, which maintains a strong base of male fantasy readers, to grab North American readers. 

Wuxiaworld, founded in 2014 by former U.S. diplomat Lai Jingping who goes by his pen name Ren Woxing was acquired through Radish Media, a U.S.-based web novel platform absorbed by Kakao Entertainment in May 2021 for $440 million. There would be no change in its current management, Wuxiaworld said, adding that Kakao Entertainment and Radish have guaranteed a massive marketing budget to reinforce Wuxiaworld's long-term viability and health. 

"While we will be rapidly accelerating production of Korean web novels, we will also be expanding Chinese web novels translations," Lai said in a statement posted on the company's website. He said the company hopes to expand its business into Japanese web novels and light novels by the third quarter of 2022, citing Kakao Entertainment's strong presence in Japan.

Lai ruled out any significant business model change, saying that Wuxiaworld focuses on male fantasy readers, while Radish has focused on female romance readers, meaning there are no concerns of internal cross-competition or userbase cannibalization. 

The acquisition reflects Kakao Entertainment's aggressive move to grow into a global intellectual property company leveraging the content power of Radish and Wuxiaworld.

Government data showed that South Korea's web novel market has grown 50 times from about 10 billion won ($8.4 million) in 2013 to about 500 billion won in 2019. One of the most popular global web novel platforms is Wattpad, a Canada-based site with more than 665 million story uploads. The platform, where writers can publish user-generated stories, has more than 90 million users. In January 2021, South Korea's top portal operator Naver took over Wattpad.
In South Korea, various web novels have been recreated into webtoons, also known as digital comic books. The text description of web novels can be transferred to webtoon characters' lines. According to the state-run National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), the global online cartoon market is projected to reach $1.3 billion in 2022.  
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