Less than one percent of comics in Vietnam are Vietnamese origin
VietNamNet Bridge – “Trade deficit” is the term commonly used in economics, not for culture. But it's not hard to find out that Vietnam is in trade deficit for culture, particularly in entertainment, audiovisual, movies, books, etc. Animation is just one of them.

Vietnam, comics, book market

The concept of cultural trade deficit started to be rarely used in Vietnam from 2009. According to observers, in the world the concept of "trade deficit in culture goods," or "cultural trade deficit" were just mentioned after 2000.

And until now, it is still not a universal concept. Perhaps the European and American markets, which are not the markets that are susceptible to cultural invasion; so this is not a problem that they are interested in.

In Vietnam, since the open door policy was implemented, American and European culture infiltrated into Vietnam and dominated the field of music and films in the 90s. It was followed by the emergence of the TV series from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

In the late 90s to the early 21st century, the wave of Korean TV series and Korean fashion entered the bed of all families together with housewives. At the same time, the Japanese comics began building its foothold in Vietnam, from the keys like Doraemon, Seven Dragon Balls, Hesman Warrior, Sailor Moon ... aiming at young people, accompanied by a cosplay trend.

This situation has lasted for more than 20 years. Vietnam continues being in trade deficit for mass cultural product lines, including: popular music, television films, large-screen movies, books and comics. Considering the field of culture and art in general, only the underground group, the Vietnamese contemporary dance and classical music performances are strong enough to not be inferior compared to many countries in the world.

To know how the Vietnamese cultural products are small, one can look at the film market, which is considered quite exciting and has a few achievements.

Through the press in 2011, an expert introduced the figure: "Only 0,14 movies for 1 million people in Vietnam, while in Malaysia it is 1 million/1 film, South Korea 1 million/ 2 film. The ratio indicates the number of films produced by Vietnam is too little. A country of 86 million people can produce over 10 films each year is a problem".

In the comic book market, this figure is much more terrible.

Less than one percent of comics have local origin

Vietnam, comics, book market

In the book market in general, the number of Vietnamese literary works is very small compared to foreign sources of knowledge and entertainment. But if compared to the comic, it still seems to be a good thing.

One of the biggest publishers of children's books and comic books like the Kim Dong Publishing House--publishes around 50 new foreign comics and only 2-3 Vietnamese comic books. This rate is indeed very small but there are still positive signs than some other publishers, such as the Youth Publishing House, TVN, Vang Anh, the number of foreign comics is almost 100 percent.

The ratio of Vietnamese comics is probably less than 1% and most of them are just comic books for preschool age or primary pupils.

Referring to the phrase "Vietnamese comic book ratio," the director of a publishing house laughed and said: "The number of Vietnamese comics can be counted on the fingers. The figure of foreign comics is countless, mainly Korean, Japanese and Chinese comics.

In addition to the comics that are licensed, the volume of pirated comics is many times larger. And of course, no illegal printers want to print Vietnamese comics. This situation continues to push Vietnamese comics into the corner although the demand for comics is huge.

Probably we have to go back to a question, the book is really a cultural product line that is hard to sell? The answer is probably not. Entertainment books are always sold well - a source of feed for the business. The "slack" if any, is usually for the books of knowledge and wisdom.

In Vietnam, the market for books, comics are full potential. Through exploration, book traders said that "comics are sold faster than text books. Readers’ demand for this type of book is also higher.

To maintain capital sources, many publishers have published more comics to have profit to publish other kinds of books.

The price for text books is always higher than for comics. A set of comics usually consists of three to tens of episodes, with a cover price of about VND15,000 ($0.7)/episode. Each episode is usually sold out within 1 to 2 weeks, with 3,000 to 5,000 copies.

Highly entertaining, quick reading, cheap price… these advantages make comics a popular product, with hundreds of thousands to millions of copies each year, but still do not meet the demand of young readers.

Ho Huong Giang
Vietnam, comics, book market