Television in South Korea

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In South Korea, there are a number of national television networks, the three largest of which are KBS, MBC, and SBS. Most of the major television studios are located on Yeouido. South Korea became the third adopter in Asia when television broadcasting began on 12 May 1956 with the opening of HLKZ-TV, a commercially operated television station. HLKZ-TV was established by the RCA Distribution Company (KORCAD) in Seoul with 186-192 MHz, 100-watt output, and 525 scanning lines.[1]

Important genres of television shows include serial dramas, historical dramas, variety shows, game shows, news programs, and documentaries. All three networks have produced increasingly lavish historical dramas in recent years. Some South Korean television programs are available on satellite and multicultural channels in North America. Korean television dramas have become widely popular in other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, with whole sets of videotapes or DVDs of series available, complete with different language subtitles. Shopping channels have become quite popular in recent years as well, and the models sometimes put on entertaining acts during product pitches.

There are many cable operators in South Korea, such as Tbroad, C&M, CMB, and CJ HelloVision. The cable TV subscriber is approximately 14 million. The cable operator provides TPS to its subscribers.


Since the beginning of the 1950s, television was introduced to Korea by RCA to sell second-hand black & white TV sets as a marketing scheme. Some TV sets were strategically set up at Pagoda Park, others at the Seoul Station and Gwanghwamun during this time.[2] However it was not until 1956 when South Korea began its own television broadcasting station, the HLKZ-TV, part of the KORCAD (RCA Distribution Company). The first ever Korean television drama, 천국의 문 (The Gates of Heaven) in 1956, planning director Choi Chang-Bong spent two and a half months continuously fixing the script, preparing sets and even the first instance of special effects, all for a drama that lasted no longer than fifteen minutes.

The early 1960s saw a phenomenal growth in television broadcasting. On 1 October 1961 the first full-scale television station, HLKA-TV (Now known as KBS 1TV), was established and began operation under the Ministry of Culture and Public Information.

Following KBS was Tongyang Broadcasting Corporation's TBC-TV which was launched in 1964, and ran until merged in 1980. It was the first private television network in South Korea.

The second commercial television system, MBC-TV, made its debut in 1969. The advent of MBC-TV brought significant development to the television industry in Korea and after 1969 the television industry was characterized by furious competition among the three networks.

The 1970s were highlighted by government intervention into the media system in Korea. In 1972, President Park Chung Hee government imposed censorship upon media through the Martial Law Decree. The government revised the Broadcasting Law under the pretext of improving the quality of television programming. After the revision of the law, the government expanded its control of media content by requiring all television and radio stations to review programming before and after transmission. Although the government argued that its action was taken as a result of growing public criticism of broadcasting media practices, many accused the government of wanting to establish a monopoly over television broadcasting.

The 1980s were the golden years for Korea's television industry. Growth was phenomenal in every dimension: the number of programming hours per week rose from 56 in 1979 to nearly 88.5 in 1989; the number of television stations increased from 12 in 1979 to 78 by 1989; and the number of television sets grew from 4 million in 1979 to nearly 6 million in the same period. In 1981, people saw a technological breakthrough, the introduction of color television. Color broadcasting, however, occasioned a renewal of strong competition among the networks. However, Korean TV industry was also suffered huge blows in this decade. During Chun Doo-hwan's regime, several newspapers, broadcasters and publications were forcibly closed, or were merged into a single organization. One of which is TBC-TV which was awarded to KBS. TBC-TV was then replaced by KBS 2TV. After the country's 1987 democratic reforms, several regulations were imposed to insulate broadcasters from political influence. For example, the National Assembly established the Foundation for Broadcast Culture to insulate MBC from political influence and KBS.

At the beginning of the 1990s, with the introduction of cable television, the government initiated an experimental multi-channel and multi-purpose cable television service. In addition, Korea launched its first broadcasting/communication satellite, Mugungwha, to 36,000 km above the equator in 1995. The development of an integrated broadband network is expected to take the form of B-ISDN immediately after the turn of the century. This decade is a period of great technological change in the Korean broadcasting industry, which will make broadcasting media even more important than in the past. In this decade the Korean broadcasting industry will maximize the service with new technological developments such as DBS, satellites, and interactive cable systems, all of which will allow Korea to participate fully in the information society.

On July 22, 2009, after heated political debates, amendment of the Media law passed the South Korean national assembly to deregulate the media market of South Korea. On December 31, 2010, four general Cable Television networks were licensed.

National networks[edit]

In South Korea, there are four nationwide television networks, three general networks and one educational network as follows:

Name Station
(Seoul region)
(Seoul region)
Broadcasting area Transmitted area Open Type and Owner
Educational Broadcasting System (EBS)
EBS TV Seoul (HLQL-TV) 10 Seoul Seoul Tower 27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) State media
Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Education in South Korea (South Korea Ministry of Education)
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)
KBS1 Seoul (HLKA-TV)
KBS2 Seoul (HLKC-TV)
1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) (KBS1 Seoul)
(1980-12-01) 1 December 1980 (age 34) (KBS2 Seoul)
State media
Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
MBC-TV Seoul (HLKV-TV) 11 1 August 1969 (1969-08-01) Commercial broadcasting
The Foundation of Broadcast Culture
The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation
Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)
에스비에스 / 서울방송그룹
에스비에스 / 서울放送그룹
SBS-TV Seoul (HLSQ-TV) 6 20 March 1991 (1991-03-20) Commercial broadcasting
Seoul Broadcasting System Media Holdings

List of television channels[edit]

All of them are free-to-air channels, all of them are the official digital terrestrial television and DVB-T2 providers of the nation (since 2005, approved by the Korean Government).

Public broadcasting channels[edit]

Name Owner Launch Genre Broadcasting area Transmitted area Broadcasting hours Slogan and Motto "Tagline" Description
KBS1 Korean Broadcasting System 1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) News and sports Seoul Seoul Tower 24 hours "Korean 24 Hour News and Sports Channel" The Channel's callsign is HLKA-TV.
KBS2 1 December 1980 (1980-12-01) Variety and entertainment "Korean 24-Hour Variety and Entertainment Channel" The Channel's callsign is HLKC-TV.
EBS TV Educational Broadcasting System 27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) Education "Korean 24-Hour Education Channel" The Channel's callsign is HLQL-TV

Commercial broadcasting channels[edit]

Name Owner Launch Genre Broadcasting area Transmitted area Broadcasting hours Slogan and Motto "Tagline" Description
MBC TV Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation 1 August 1969 (1969-08-01) News and entertainment Seoul Seoul Tower 24 hours "Good Friend, MBC" The Channel's callsign is HLKV-TV
SBS TV Seoul Broadcasting System 20 March 1991 (1991-03-20) "See You, Tomorrow" The Channel's callsign is HLSQ-TV

Cable TV networks/channels[edit]

General Cable Channels

Name Launch Slogan
JTBC 1 December 2011 (2011-12-01) Coloring Your World
TV Chosun 1 December 2011 (2011-12-01) N/A
Channel A 1 December 2011 (2011-12-01) Holding dreams like a canvas, Channel A.
MBN 1 March 1995 (1995-03-01) Opening the world MBN.

Music Channels

Name Launch Slogan
Mnet 30 July 1991 (1991-07-30) Music Makes One
KM 1 March 1995 (1995-03-01)
ETN 25 September 2000 (2000-09-25)
SBS MTV 1 July 2001 (2001-07-01)
Gayo TV 1 February 2007 (2007-02-01)
Inet TV 1 February 2012 (2012-02-01)
MBC Music 1 February 2012 (2012-02-01)

Other Cable Channels

Other cable channels include entertainment networks such as tvN, and news or movie channels such as OCN and YTN. There also channels for dramas (both foreign and native), home shopping, business, sports, women's, fashion, children's, leisure and documentaries.


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See also[edit]