Dong-sung Kim (1890-1969) is a Korean comic artist, comic critic, translator, journalist, and politician who published the first four-panel newspaper comic strips in Korea, which appeared in Donga-Ilbo (동아일보) on April 11th, 1920. Kim’s first comic strips were drawn to promote the newspaper and increase its readership, but his later strips (“The East and the West,” for instance) were thematically more complex and captured the Korean society and its modernization with irony and satire (“Death of the Chairman of Seoul Bank,” for instance). Formally, Kim experimented with panel arrangement. His comic strips were first read in an order starting from upper right to upper left, lower right, and lower left. Kim then switched the order to upper right, lower right, upper left, and lower left. Critics consider these changes as Kim’s attempt to break away from the American and Japanese comic styles and to create unique Korean comic conventions.

Born in Gaesung (개성), the Northern part of Korea, Kim left for America in 1908 and studied journalism at the Ohio State University. It was here in America that Kim became deeply invested in comics and the medium’s significance and value. On April 5th, 1917, Kim published his first comic strips in Sinhan-Minbo (신한민보), a Korean newspaper based in San Francisco. Kim returned to Korea in 1919 and was a founding member of Donga-Ilbo. Donga-Ilbo occupies a significant space in Korean comic history. Not only did it publish Kim’s four-panel comic strips series, “Visual Storytelling” (이야기 그림), but it also used the term “comic” for the first time in Korea, introduced numerous comic strips and cartoons from abroad, and offered comic prize competitions to readers and published comics contributed by readers for four years from 1923 to 1927. Kim was a leading figure in Donga-Ilbo’s effort to encourage comic artists and readers, and expand comic industry in Korea.

Kim was also a renowned comic critic, scholar, and translator. He translated a variety of American comic manuals and wrote the first Korean comic handbook, “How to draw comic” and published it in Dong-myoung (동명) in 1923. In 1924, Kim became a founder and editor of another newspaper, Josun-Ilbo (조선일보), and collaborated with a few other artists to create the first Korean character Manhwa (만화), “A dumb man who digs a wrong well” (멍텅구리 헛물켜기). This Manhwa was later made into a movie.

In his later years, Kim got involved in politics and became the first minister of culture in Korea’s first government after independence in 1948.

–Hye Su Park


Further reading:

Kim, Sunghoon. Korean Comic and the History of Media-Mix. Pandom Books (    팬덤북스), 2014. Print.

 Kim, Ulhan. Chul-ri-goo Kim Dong-sung. Ulyumunhwasa (을유문화사), 1981. Print.