A Course in Cartooning, Across the Sea

This report just in from CCS student Kevin Kilgore.  Kevin is spending his senior year in Seoul, South Korea (learn more here).  As part of his low-residency program, Kevin is researching cartooning in his region.  Below he describes the cartooning major at Sangmyung University.

CHEONAN, South Korea – Looking down at what appears to be a corpse wrapped up on a cot, I’m distracted by my tour guide. He has just interrupted two guys, who seem to be goofing around on the Internet. After some blushing and muffled laughs, we are shown a short animated film. The corpse snored. The two guys and the corpse, are students in the Division of Cartoon & Digital Contents at Sangmyung University.

Sangmyung University was founded, in Seoul, in 1937 as a women’s university. In 1985, the Cheonan campus was opened. The 1990s was a time of change for SMU, it opened its doors to male students and began its cartoon and animation program. Located about an hour-and-a-half outside of Seoul, SMU’s Division of Cartoon & Digital Contents has over 300 students studying in three bachelor degree plans: Cartoon, Animation, and Digital Contents. According to the school’s Web site:


“A major in Cartoon teaches all the processes involved in cartoon production including: planning, story, continuity, and editing of Images and storyboards. This program aims to be innovative by creating new digital Images for the future. Students are encouraged to work independently and produce a cartoon from beginning to end. A major in Cartoon will produce professionals who will open up new areas in animation for the 21st century. Students will have the opportunity to produce theories, improve research skills and have practical training.”








During my tour of the cartoon department’s facilities Ki Hwan Son, Vice Managing Director of the Industry Academic Cooperation Foundation, spoke to me about SMU’s curriculum and post-graduate life. In the mid 90s, when SMU began offering cartooning degrees only one-in-20 applicants were accepted, however that number is down to one-in-seven, Ki said.

After graduation, most students look to the computer game industry for employment as character designers and industrial artists. That is where the money is at, added Ki.

Ki is not only a faculty member, but also a cartoonist, painter and president of the executive committee for the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival. SICAF is one of the largest cartoon events in Korea.

Continuing around the facility, one thing stuck out. Sleeping students. In every classroom we passed there were at least one or two fledgling cartoonists sacked out, head down on a desk. And, it was not uncommon to see cots in the classrooms. The production lab had a cot right in front of the industrial paper cutter for fits narcolepsy during crunch time.

Why all of the sleeping? Boring classes? I think not. The sheer volume of work these kids were turning out was amazing.

Gwak Seung Hoon drew 140 pages for his senior thesis PRIVATE. Kim Min Kyung knocked out an impressive 170 pages for her final project titled The Real World & Fantasy World. Not to be outdone, Jang Hye Won’s all-color The Man Who is Everything and Nothing weighed in at 200 pages.

To showcase their work the students put together a 56-page, color pamphlet with two pages dedicated to each person’s thesis and contact information.

In the department’s main office you can flip through the student’s final projects, which were published with the same quality and attention to detail as comics you would find from big publishers in a comic shop.

Although SMU became a coed school in the mid 90s, female students are still in full force in the DC&DC. Out of the 23 seniors in the cartoon department’s 2009 graduating class, 19 were female.

As an avid student of comics, I was very impressed by the array of talent displayed by both the faculty and student body at SMU’s DC&DC. Although a lot of the work was focused on the mainstream comics market and the computer game industry, the foundation the students receive more than prepare them for any genre of comics they chose to take on.

– Kevin Kilgore


4 responses to “A Course in Cartooning, Across the Sea

  1. Al B. Wesolowsky

    Senior theses of 140 pages? 170 pages? 200 pages in full color? Kevin, you have to stop talking like this. You’ll give the CCS faculty ideas…bad ideas.

  2. Robyn Chapman

    CCS just needs more cots!

  3. Pingback: Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Nov. 23, 2009: Slippery justifications and excuses

  4. Pingback: Professor Kevin Kilgore |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s