World Media 2007: South Korea

It is one of the world's internet powerhouses and is a leader in creating broadband economies, but it could be the old media of cinema that makes the difference to South Korea's economy.

North Korea's nuclear test in July of last year has taken the sun out of South Korea's "sunshine policy" of engaging with its controversial neighbour. In so doing, it has helped to undermine the South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, who will have to face elections later this year.

One of the four East Asian "tigers", along with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, South Korea has the 11th-largest economy in the world. Growth remains strong, although it is predicted to slow a little from 5.2 per cent last year to 4.5 per cent or less in the coming year.

It is one of the planet's internet powerhouses, leading the world in creating broadband economies. More than three-quarters of South Korean homes have 3Mb broadband access at home. There are more than 30 million 3G mobile phone users, online newspapers with more readers than hard-copy rivals and 20,000 internet cafes.

Nine out of ten Koreans aged 24 to 29 are members of the social networking site Cyworld, where 19 million users in a population of 48 million have created virtual alter-egos. Cyworld has 200 million songs downloaded each year, an online music market second only to Apple's iTunes.

Online has made serious inroads on newspapers in South Korea, despite a strong culture of newspaper readership. More than half of all Koreans use the web for news. Online, OhMy News has 700,000 repeat visitors a day. Older readers are deserting newspapers for local portals such as www.naver.com, which claims 13 million visitors a day.

Increasing confidence in the effectiveness of cable TV and internet advertising has led to double-digit growth for the two media, compared with a slowdown in growth of traditional media. Outdoor is also set to expand this year, with plans for the relaxation of ad regulations.

The country may also be on the cusp of a revolution in internet protocol TV. Despite setbacks, IPTV is likely to be fully established by mid-2007 - with South Korea's broadband access it may well be a big hit.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's the oldest form of on-screen media that might make all the difference to South Korea's economy in the next few years. The government last year halved the number of days when cinemas must show Korean-produced films to 73. It paves the way to Hollywood and to talks on a free trade agreement between South Korea and the US, an eventuality which could boost South Korean GDP by 2 per cent.

USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1 =
Won 1,024 *Estimated
Total Newspapers Magazines TV Radio Outdoor Online
2000 6,649 3,312 271 2,021 206 706 133
2001 6,566 3,285 285 1,918 194 757 125
2002 7,578 3,629 319 2,373 226 851 181
2003 7,894 3,622 291 2,590 222 905 264
2004 7,386 3,275 266 2,562 214 686 383
2005 7,679 3,340 326 2,522 219 718 554
2006 8,074 3,407 352 2,676 228 747 664
2007* 8,330 3,407 363 2,800 235 762 764
2008* 8,516 3,339 374 2,907 242 777 878
2009* 8,685 3,272 385 3,020 249 793 966

Adspend notes 1) Discounts not given. 2) Includes agency commission and
classified. 3) Excludes production costs. 4) "Other" includes outdoor,
cinema and sales promotion. 5) Internet includes all banners, rich
media, pop-up ads and links. 6) Newspapers include free tabloids from
2005. 7) Magazines include membership magazines from 2005. 8) Outdoor
costs were revised in 2004/2005 to exclude "events", so the figures are
not comparable to previous years.

Newspaper: The Chosun Ilbo (daily, 2,300,000 copies)
Business magazine: Sisa Journal (weekly, 110,000 copies)
Consumer magazines: Yeosung JoongAng, Women Sense (both monthly, 60,000
Most-watched TV programme (2005): My Name is Kim Sam Sun
Best new TV format: Infinite Challenge, variety show on MBC
Circulation: Audit Bureau of Circulations
Readership: HRC
TV viewing: AGB Nielsen
Newspapers: The Chosun Ilbo, The Joongang Ilbo, The Donga Ilbo
Magazines: Design House, Joongang M&B, Doosan Donga
TV: KBS (public), MBC, SBS


- Media topic du jour

Digital Mobile Broadcasting ... a world first in South Korea in 2005. An industry is still holding its breath.

- Reigning media guru and why

LG Electronics has appointed Yong Nam as its vice-chairman and chief executive. The role gives him control of a vast consumer electronics company that ranks among the world's largest manufacturers of mobile phone handsets and TVs.

- Media mogul to be seen dining with and why

Lee Mi-kyung still has the highest kudos as a restaurant partner. He is the vice-chairman of Korea's top entertainment group, which is looking to expand through cable TV channels.

- Car to drive: Hyundai Veracruz.

- Phone to carry: LG Shine KE970.

- Whatever you do, don't say: I don't like Manchester United. (The team of Korean striker Ji-Sung Park.)


"It's all around us" is the market-leading telecoms company SK Telecom's award-winning campaign from TBWA\Korea. Three hundred and sixty stories from ordinary people, related to the mobile phone, were made into a book, then some ran in print, outdoor, and TV, making the campaign as ubiquitous and talked-about as mobile phones in South Korea.