World Media 2006: South Korea

With the world's highest broadband penetration, an advanced mobile media market and a pioneering approach to high-definition TV and online publishing, South Korea is hi-tech heaven.

If South Korea is the place to visit when you want to see the future of media already in action - and many believe it is - then the picture is not enormously encouraging for conventional commercial television networks.

The country, which is home to the innovative electronics giant LG, is well-known for having the world's highest penetration of broadband internet. South Korea also boasts the most developed mobile media market, with, for example, five television channels commonly available on mobile devices. It is also a pioneer in the development and adoption of high-definition television and was the first country to create an online newspaper, Ohmy News, written almost entirely by citizen reporters; in other words, its readers.

Predictably, money is moving rapidly into new media sectors - but many observers have been surprised by the astonishing rate of decline at the country's main commercial TV networks, KBS, MBC and SBS. The net effect is a decrease in the country's total advertising spend. That certainly wasn't supposed to happen.

Nevertheless, some of the traditional media have been performing very decently. There has been a mini boom in outdoor, the theory being that the high adoption of mobile technologies proves that people are more likely to be out and about.

Perhaps less surprising is the continued buoyancy of the print market.

South Koreans have always been avid readers of newspapers - and this is still the medium to choose if you are seeking insightful news coverage or criticism of the government.

Not that there is much to criticise. With a commercial system underpinned by the "chaebol" conglomerates - the government-assisted but family controlled companies such as Hyundai, Samsung, Daewoo and LG - the economy is in an enviable position at the start of the 21st century.

South Korea was hit badly by the Asian financial collapse of 1997 but, following reforms in 2001, output is growing robustly once more, inflation is low, unemployment negligible and there is an export surplus.

In common with Taiwan, one of the main media issues is the extent to which South Korea's media of all types should be given leeway to criticise a potentially hostile neighbour - in this case, the representative of the "axis of evil" in the Asia-Pacific region, North Korea.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= Won 1145.32. *Estimated Total TV News- Maga- Radio Online Other papers zines 1994 3,371 933 1,368 129 140 0 802 1995 3,998 1,119 1,600 153 163 0 962 1996 4,711 1,390 1,799 181 189 0 1,152 1997 5,340 1,358 2,508 210 165 0 1,099 1998 3,812 917 2,006 146 96 0 646 1999 4,706 1,338 2,539 191 127 0 510 2000 5,945 1,807 2,962 242 185 119 631 2001 5,871 1,715 2,938 255 174 112 677 2002 6,776 2,122 3,245 285 202 162 761 2003 7,059 2,316 3,239 260 199 236 809 2004 6,798 2,291 2,928 238 191 343 806 2005 6,579 2,188 2,753 243 189 394 812 2006* 6,652 2,240 2,698 248 193 446 828 2007* 6,785 2,352 2,644 255 199 490 845 2008* 6,968 2,496 2,591 268 205 539 870 Adspend notes 1) Discounts not given before 1999. 2) Includes classified. 3) Excludes production costs. 4) Includes agency commission (15%). 5) Before 1998 "outdoor" included cinema and direct mail. FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Chosun Ilbo (daily, 2,300,000 copies) - Business magazine: Chosun Weekly (100,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Yeosung Joongang (monthly, 60,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Dae-Jang-Gum - Best new TV format: Everyone Wins - quiz show Major measurement tools - Circulation: Only the top three papers are audited by the Korean Audit Bureau of Circulations - TV viewing: AC Nielsen Main media owners - Newspapers: Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo - Magazines: Joongang M&B, Doosan Booga - Television: KBS (public), MBC, SBS

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: Satellite and terrestrial digital TV have both been made available directly on mobile devices.

Reigning media guru and why: SS Kim, the chief executive of LG. He, more than another other person on the planet, can tell you what the media future will look like.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: Lee Mikyung, the vice-chairman of CJ Group, the cable and satellite channel operator, is very well connected. She is the sister of one of the founders of Samsung.

Car to drive: Hyundai Santa Fe SUV.

Phone to carry: Any DMB (digital multimedia broadcasting) phone.

Whatever you do, don't say: I'm thinking of taking a holiday in North Korea.

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