Korea's Largest Illegal Manga Website Shuts Down

posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Marumaru began "service maintenance" on Tuesday

The South Korean website Marumaru, which illegally reproduced and translated Japanese manga and earned revenue through advertising, shut down on Tuesday. A message (seen right) posted on the website read, "Service maintenance is currently underway. Please check back again later."

The website was established in 2013, and its access numbers were reportedly greater than the Korean portal website Nate. Therefore, the site administrator known as "President Park" earned nearly 8 billion (about US$7.08 million) through advertising earnings alone.

According to Nichiyō Shimbun, "President Park" and other managing staff began activities related to the shutdown two weeks prior to the website's closure. Staff in charge of the illegal translations stopped translating, and staff in charge of uploading Marumaru manga on a separate site also stopped their operations about two weeks previously. The site's administrators reportedly told Marumaru users in a group chat that "our store has closed."

Similar Korean illegal manga websites such as Bamtoki have faced penalties recently, which is suspected to have influenced Marumaru's shutdown. In July, a Busan district court indicted a 43-year-old programmer who managed Bamtoki on charges of violating copyright laws, and he was sentenced to serve two and a half years of imprisonment with hard labor. The South Korean online platform Naver was also ordered to pay 1 billion won (about US$883,000) in damages in a civil suit.

Bamtoki was Korea's largest illegal distribution site for webtoons (Korean digital comics), and it earned 950 million won (about US$839,000) in profit in the one year and six months after its establishment. Due to banner ads, the number of people accessing the site daily reached 1.16 million.

In the course of tracking illegal manga websites such as Bamtoki, police had reportedly begun preliminary and internal investigations into Marumaru before the website shut down. However, investigating Marumaru was more difficult because Marumaru's surface website was separate from its manga uploading site Usagi Syrup. Administrators reportedly lived in the United States.

A Blue House (Korea's executive office and residence of the country's president) national petition titled "Please Shut Down the Illegal Manga-Sharing Site Marumaru" launched in November 2017, and it received more than 50,000 signatures before closing. However, a petition titled "Please Don't Shut Down Marumaru" launched this past Tuesday in light of the news of Marumaru's shutdown. The person who started the petition is calling for action to allow people with no money to be able to read manga for free.

Source: Korea JoongAng Daily

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