Television in South Korea

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 and Sangam-dong. 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 foreign countries. Korean television dramas have been widely popular in other East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, and became popularized internationally at a later stage, with whole sets of videotapes or DVDs of series available with completed subtitles in different languages, online subtitle websites are also created by numerous fan clubs to cater to a global audience. 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. There are approximately 14 million cable TV subscribers nationwide. 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. Despite producing color televisions for export, color television was not officially introduced in the country until late 1980.[3] 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 networksEdit

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

Name Channels
(Sudogwon region)
(Busan region)
(Jeju region)
Launch Type & Owner
Educational Broadcasting System (EBS)
  • EBS1 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-1)
  • EBS2 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-2)
  • EBS1 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-1)
  • EBS2 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-2)
  • EBS1 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-1)
  • EBS2 TV l
    HLQL-TV/HLQL-DTV (Channel 10-2)
27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)
  • KBS1 Seoul
    HLKA-DTV (Channel 9-1)
  • KBS2 Seoul
    HLKC-DTV (Channel 7-1)
  • KBS1 Busan
    HLKB-DTV (Channel 9-1)
  • KBS2 Busan
    HLKE-DTV (Channel 7-1)
  • KBS1 Jeju
    HLKS-DTV (Channel 9-1)
  • KBS2 Jeju
    HLCF-DTV (Channel 7-1)
  • 1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) (KBS1)
  • 1 December 1980 (1980-12-01) (KBS2)
Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
  • MBC-TV Busan
    HLKU-DTV (Channel 11-1)
  • MBC-TV Jeju
    HLAJ-DTV (Channel 11-1)
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
20 March 1991 (1991-03-20) Commercial broadcasting
SBS Media Holdings

List of television channelsEdit

All of them are free-to-air channels. Furthermore, 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 channelsEdit

Name Owner Launch Genre Slogan and Motto "Tagline" Description
KBS1 Korean Broadcasting System 1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) News and sports "Fulfilling the People's Devotion Through Broadcasting" The Channel's callsign is HLKA-TV.
KBS2 Korean Broadcasting System 1 December 1980 (1980-12-01) Variety and entertainment "The Youth Channel" The Channel's callsign is HLKC-TV.
EBS TV Educational Broadcasting System 27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) Education "Education makes the world happy" Formerly known as KBS 3TV became EBS in 1990.

Commercial broadcasting channelsEdit

In South Korea, many commercial television networks have been created after the deregulation taken in 1961 till 1990.[4] SBS is responsible in distributing its programming content nationally, but is not responsible for producing local content aired by their affiliates.

Name Owner Launch Covers Genre Broadcasting hours Slogan and Motto "Tagline" Description
MBC TV MBC August 1, 1969 Nationwide News and entertainment 24 hours The Power of Broadcasting (2001-2011)

Good Friends of MBC (2011–present)

The Channel's callsign is HLKV-TV
SBS TV SBS Media Holdings March 20, 1991 Previously Seoul National Capital Area; now nationwide News and entertainment 24 hours Humanism Through Digital (2000–2010)

See You Tomorrow (2010–present)

The Channel's callsign is HLSQ-TV
KNN Korea New Network Corporation March 14, 1995 Busan and Gyeongnam Local entertainment and news
TBC Daegu Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Daegu and Gyeongbuk Local entertainment and news
KBC Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Gwangju and Jeonnam Local entertainment and news
TJB Taejon Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Daejeon, Sejong City and Chungnam Local entertainment and news
UBC Ulsan Broadcasting Corporation September 1, 1997 Ulsan, eastern part of Gyeongnam Local entertainment and news
JTV Jeonju Television September 17, 1997 Jeonbuk Local entertainment and news
CJB Cheongju Broadcasting Corporation October 18, 1997 Chungbuk Local entertainment and news
G1 Gangwon No.1 Broadcasting Corporation December 15, 2001 Gangwon Local entertainment and news
JIBS Jeju Free International City Broadcasting System Corporation May 31, 2002 Jeju Local entertainment and news
OBS Yeong An Hat Company December 28, 2007 Seoul National Capital Area Metropolitan entertainment Your Light of Hope and Share

Cable TV networks/channelsEdit

Name Launch Slogan
JTBC December 1, 2011 Your Colorful Pleasure
OCN March 1, 1995 South Korea's No. 1 Network / Character Revolution
MBN December 6, 1994 Open World, Open Coverage
TV Chosun December 1, 2011
YTN March 1, 1995 Always First / Exclusive Tomorrow / Yes! Top News
Arirang TV February 3, 1997 The World On Arirang
tvN October 9, 2006 Content Trend Leader
XtvN January 19, 2018 Fun to play!
Mnet July 30, 1991 Music Makes One
Tooniverse December 1, 1995 South Korea's No. 1 Channel for Kids
ETN [ko] September 25, 2000 Entertain You
OGN July 24, 2000 Game Changer
SBS MTV July 1, 2001 Music & More
OnStyle February 2, 2004 No.1 Style Channel
Gayo TV February 1, 2007
Inet TV February 1, 2012
MBC Music February 1, 2012 I Music U
Channel A December 1, 2011 A Canvas That Holds Your Dreams.

See alsoEdit