I'm talking about my own experience, and of course the romance category, which is by far the most popular. Several months ago me and my friend both started two easy romance webtoons just for fun in the most prefabricated way. We follow one by one all the topical situations, the super slow narrative, many colorful scenes( and no, once you follow a systematic way of coloring it's really easy and quick), many cheesy dialogues, empty and simple beautiful characters and lots and lots of recycled panels( copy, paste, change a little the angle, put a bigger mouth, change the pupils directions, put a different gradient light, voila you have another panel done in 60 seconds). In just a month we were earning money from Webtoon.
I got tired a few months later. I was earning money, yes( and no small amount since it was the old webtoon stats), but I hated my comic a lot. It was sooo boring, so cliche, uninspiring, I wasn't even improving anything about my own style since I was just doing a boring replica of the super typical korean webtoon.
So I gave up with it and I started a different webtoon. With my own style, my own story, my own soul and a lot more of artistic work. Of course it's not popular, no matter how much effort I put on it. Not the typical stuff LINE staff wants to see and promote. But I'm happy with it, growing it with my own effort and improving my style by myself. If I wanted money I just could've kept doing it the other one for a while, but it wasn't worth it. Of course I would like LINE noticed this one, but I know that won't happen.
My friend still continues his popular webtoon, he is bored af about it, but he is just there for the money as far as the pledge continue. His followers love his work, it takes him just one or two days to make an episode, and everbody is happy.
So my point is of course there're hard work on some popular webtoons, but that's not the main rule to get attention on the site. You need to get LINE sympathy. And no, they couldn't care less about the effort you're putting into your work or story( I still can't get over about they say to care about the pace, they don't even know what is that). Same applies to this contest. I bet they already have at least two agreed winners at this point, and the rest depends on how many already popular comics from other sites go to the contest.
And about this:
"Also, 35+ panels is still no joke, especially in this competition. You can't expect someone to repeat the same 5 panels and get featured. It's just not a story."
Of course that won't happen at first. Everybody starts with a strong episode. After they got popular or featured is when they got relaxed. Everybody knows about one, two or ten popular or featured webtoons which go worse with time. Recycling, worse lineart, lazier coloring, partial or total disappearance of shading or details, or all them combined... Different thing is somebody mentions this. It's funny because sometimes you can notice a featured webtoon suddenly goes slightly better after lots of episodes going worse. I'm pretty sure LINE goes after them if their work doesn't look "pretty enough" for the usual standar.