Interviews

BJ Alex‘s Mingwa: “If there are more users of illegal sites, I might not be able to work.”

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Mingwa, the creator behind popular BL series BJ Alex, is one of many artists who has discovered their work illegally uploaded on manga/webcomic aggregator websites. Shortly after Lezhin launched BJ Alex‘s official English translation on Jan. 7, 2018, rips appeared on Mangago the following week. At the time of this article’s publication, rippers (as opposed to scanlators) have posted all the episodes available, allowing readers to support the aggregators rather than Mingwa. Mangago and other websites cost nothing to readers. However, they cause damages that go beyond the financial for the original creators and publishers as explained by From Points of Three‘s creator White Eared and The Yaoi Army founder Seru.

Alarmed by the unauthorized distribution of  BJ Alex and the sheer popularity of these aggregators, Mingwa has stepped forward and joined fellow creators GGANG-E, White Eared, Seru, and Byeol Narae to speak about the impact of illegal uploads and scanlation.

Below follows a translation of our interview with Mingwa.

“If there are more users of illegal sites, I might not be able to work.”

futekiya: How did you find out that your work was illegally posted?

Mingwa: I first learned of this from a fan, and also knew some of them were reading my manhwa on illegal sites instead of Lezhin. It was easy to find it posted on these sites in Google search results. The entire manhwa was also frequently uploaded and shared on social media.

futekiya: Did you contact the illegal websites and if you did, did they respond?

Mingwa: Actually, I havent been able to get in touch with them. There are many reasons why, but firstly, I couldnt respond to every illegal site due to my demanding work schedule. I’m stretched as it is with deadlines for a weekly series, so it’s hard to find time for other things. Secondly, it’s difficult to communicate because of the large language barrier and my poor English. Not only do I need to translate and use machine translation to respond, I also have to get help from others for proofreading, which is very time-consuming. To compound things, the language barrier is greater for illegal sites and posts in non-English speaking countries. And worst of all, dealing with illegal sites directly as a creator is mentally draining and depressing: illegal sites are a great source of stress for us, making this even more difficult to resolve.

Read BJ Alex Free Online
Mangago has blocked people in South Korea from accessing BJ Alex like they did with From Points of Three and A Man of Virtue.

futekiya: How do illegal uploads affect your life and career?

Mingwa: The act of freely viewing manhwa on illegal sites greatly affects my economic situation. I only publish BJ Alex, which is available only on Lezhin. In other words, Lezhin coins are my sole source of income, and I don’t get a single cent from users reading BJ Alex for free on illegal sites. The income from coins is fair payment for the labor that goes into drawing the manhwa. I need an income to live a normal life and draw in a better environment. If there are more users of illegal sites, I might not be able to work. 

https://twitter.com/_mingwa/status/1016046292852592641?s=21

futekiya: Can you explain your work process? How is the environment for creating your manhwa?

Mingwa: I post one episode per week, working six days and taking the seventh day off. Aside from eating and sleeping, nearly all my time is devoted to work.

Most of the Korean webtoon market has a weekly release schedule. There are also more creators who work all week than those who can take a day off like me. We work very long hours but have yet to be paid fairly for them. This is why revenue from paying readers is vital in the Korean webtoon market.

futekiya: BJ Alex is currently available only on Lezhin. What has Lezhin done about illegal uploads, and what do you think they can do in the future?

Mingwa: Lezhin has a task force dedicated to illegal webtoon sites, which is said to be constantly working on deleting illegal posts. But there are limits to this. Even if they are deleted, someone would be able to illegally upload it again, and illegal users would easily find other ways. I believe that changing fans’ perception [of this issue] at the individual level is more important than the work of deleting itself.

futekiya: Is there anything else youd want to tell your readers?

Mingwa: One day, a fan emailed me asking that I allow my manhwa to be read on illegal sites because they couldn’t pay for it. I was furious; I felt insulted that a fan would openly tell a creator they were viewing their work illegally and find nothing wrong with it. I couldn’t condone this even if they loved my work. No creator supports illegal sites, no matter how much love and recognition might come from them.

I want to be paid fairly for my labor, and this true for all creators. This doesn’t just concern BJ Alex, but other webtoons, movies, music, performances–all creative content. Put yourself in our shoes. No matter the work, you want to be paid what your labor is worth. Enjoying the work without paying for it is no different from theft.

Thanks to BJ Alex, I was able to meet many fans and enjoy a great deal of love and support. But illegal sites and translations have only proliferated that much more. I only publish with Lezhin in South Korea and English-speaking countries. If you love my manhwa, please purchase it through legitimate means from Lezhin Comics. Thank you.

Translated by Younseo Jang, a translator with Local Manga. Edited by Paul H. Kim (for inquiries, contact at phk02009@mymail.pomona.edu)

You can read BJ Alex on Lezhin. If you are a creator that would like to talk to us about your experience, please contact us via DM on Twitter or email us at hanashiro@fantasista-net.jp. 

https://futekiya.com/change-bl-manga-industry/

White Eared Interview with Fukteiya

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