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, Seoul. South Korea became the fourth 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. (with the exception of Arirang which is free).


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) debuted the same year, 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 South 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 four million in 1979 to nearly six 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, the South 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, South Korea launched its first broadcasting/communication satellite, Mugungwha 1, 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 South Korean broadcasting industry, which will make broadcasting media even more important than in the past. In this decade the South Korean broadcasting industry will maximize the service with new technological developments such as DBS, satellites, and interactive cable systems, all of which will allow South Korea to participate fully in the information society.

On 22 July 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 31 December 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
(Seoul Capital Area)
(Busan region)
(Jeju region)
Launch Type & Owner
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)
  • 31 December 1961 (1961-12-31) (KBS 1TV)
  • 1 December 1980 (1980-12-01) (KBS 2TV)
  • 3 March 2010 (2010-03-03) (KBS NEWS D)
Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Educational Broadcasting System (EBS)
  • 27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) (EBS 1TV)
  • 11 February 2015 (2015-02-11) (EBS 2TV)
Public broadcasting
Government of South Korea
Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
MBC 네트워크
  • MBC TV
    HLKV-DTV/UHDTV (Channel 11-1)
8 August 1969 (1969-08-08) Public broadcasting (Headquarters)
Commercial broadcasting (Local)
The Foundation of Broadcast Culture
The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation
Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS Network)
한국민영방송연합 (SBS네트워크)
  • SBS TV
    HLSQ-DTV/UHDTV (Channel 6-1)
  • KNN TV
    HLDG-DTV/UHDTV (Channel 6-1)
20 March 1991 (1991-03-20) Commercial broadcasting
Seoul Broadcasting System
(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 ATSC providers of the nation (since 2005, approved by the Korean Government).

Public broadcasting channelsEdit

Name Owner Launch Genre Description
KBS 1TV Korean Broadcasting System 1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) News, drama, culture, kids and sports The channel's callsign is HLKA-DTV and HLKA-UHDTV.
KBS 2TV Korean Broadcasting System 1 December 1964 (1964-12-01) Variety, sports and entertainment Formerly known as TBC, renamed to KBS 2TV in 1980.
The channel's callsign is HLSA-DTV.
KBS NEWS D Korean Broadcasting System 19 July 2021 (2021-07-19) News, live events, emergency alerts ATSC 3.0 only channel, broadcasting in HD format.
The channel's callsign is HLKA-UHDTV.
EBS 1TV Educational Broadcasting System 27 December 1990 (1990-12-27) Education, News, Kids Entertainment Formerly known as KBS 3TV, renamed to EBS in 1990.
The channel's callsign is HLQL-DTV.
EBS 2TV Educational Broadcasting System 11 February 2015 (2015-02-11) Education ATSC 3.0 only channel, broadcasting in HD format.
The channel's callsign is HLQL-DTV.
MBC TV Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation 1 August 1969 (1969-08-01) News and entertainment The Channel's callsign is HLKV-DTV and HLKV-UHDTV.

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 Description
SBS TV SBS Media Holdings March 20, 1991 Seoul National Capital Area News and entertainment The Channel's callsign is HLSQ-DTV and HLSQ-UHDTV
SBS Network Headquarters
KNN Korea New Network Corporation March 14, 1995 Busan and Gyeongnam Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
TBC Daegu Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Daegu and Gyeongbuk Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
KBC Kwangju Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Gwangju and Jeonnam Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
TJB Taejon Broadcasting Corporation March 14, 1995 Daejeon, Sejong City and Chungnam Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
UBC Ulsan Broadcasting Corporation September 1, 1997 Ulsan, eastern part of South Gyeongsang Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
JTV Jeonju Television September 17, 1997 North Jeolla Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
CJB Cheongju Broadcasting Corporation October 18, 1997 North Chungcheong Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
G1 Gangwon No.1 Broadcasting Corporation December 15, 2001 Gangwon Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
JIBS Jeju International Broadcasting System Corporation May 31, 2002 Jeju Local entertainment and news SBS Network affiliated
OBS Young An Hat Co., Ltd. December 28, 2007 Seoul National Capital Area Metropolitan entertainment and news Independent station

Cable TV networks/channelsEdit

Name Launch Group
Korea TV March 1, 1995 KTV
National Assembly TV May 24, 2004 NATV
Arirang TV February 3, 1997 Arirang
Channel A December 1, 2011 Channel A
Channel A Plus July 1, 2015 Channel A
Channel View February 1, 2009 t.cast
cineF August 1, 2010 t.cast
CUBE TV July 1, 2012 iHQ
DRAMAcube August 1, 2011 t.cast
EBS english April 6, 2007 EBS
EBS Kids January 1, 2018 EBS
EBS Plus 1 March 1, 2002 EBS
EBS Plus 2 March 1, 2002 EBS
E Channel October 1, 2000 t.cast
History (Korea) September 22, 2017 iHQ, A+E
iHQ October 1, 2000 iHQ
iHQ Drama July 1, 2002 iHQ
JTBC December 1, 2011 JTBC
JTBC GOLF January 7, 2005 JTBC
JTBC2 March 1, 1995 JTBC
JTBC4 April 21, 2018 JTBC
KBS drama February 2, 2002 KBS
KBS joy November 1, 2006 KBS
KBS Kids May 5, 2012 KBS
KBS LIFE February 27, 2002 KBS
KBS N SPORTS February 2, 2002 KBS
KBS STORY April 1, 2021 KBS
KiZmom July 1, 2022 SBS
K-STAR December 1, 1995 iHQ
Lifetime (Korea) September 22, 2017 iHQ, A+E
MBC Drama April 2, 2001 MBC
MBC every1 January 1, 2003 MBC
MBC M February 1, 2012 MBC
MBC ON February 18, 2019 MBC
MBC Sports+ April 2, 2001 MBC
MBN December 6, 1994 MBN
Mnet July 30, 1991 CJ
OCN March 1, 1995 CJ
OCN Movies July 12, 2002 CJ
OCN Thrills July 1, 2001 CJ
OGN July 24, 2000 OP.GG
SBS Biz May 1, 2002 SBS
SBS FiL October 1, 2019 SBS
SBS FiL UHD August 1, 2016 SBS
SBS funE August 16, 2005 SBS
SBS Golf June 1, 1999 SBS
SBS M July 1, 2001 SBS
SBS Plus September 1, 2000 SBS
SBS Sports March 1, 1995 SBS
SCREEN February 1, 2009 t.cast
SPOTV May 1, 2010 Eclat
SPOTV2 January 1, 2012 Eclat
SPOTV Games December 28, 2013 Eclat
SPOTV Golf & Health May 6, 2020 Eclat
STATV March 16, 2020 Eclat
Tooniverse December 1, 1995 CJ
TV CHOSUN December 1, 2011 CHOSUN
TV CHOSUN2 February 12, 2007 CHOSUN
TV CHOSUN3 April 1, 2021 CHOSUN
tvN October 9, 2006 CJ
tvN DRAMA September 10, 2015 CJ
tvN STORY June 1, 2000 CJ
tvN SHOW September 1, 2021 CJ
tvN SPORTS May 20, 2022 CJ
YTN March 1, 1995 YTN
YTN2 March 1, 2021 YTN
YTN Science November 8, 2010 YTN
Yonhap News TV December 1, 2011 Yonhap News

Most viewed channelsEdit

Position Channel Share of total viewing (%)
1 KBS 1TV 9.1
2 MBC TV 8.8
3 SBS TV 6.0
4 KBS Drama 4.9
5 OBS 4.4
6 tvN 3.9
7 MBC Drama 3.1
8 KBS 2TV 2.8
9 KBS NEWS D 2.7
10 Mnet 1.9
11 EBS 1TV 1.4
12 EBS 2TV 0.9

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "SOUTH KOREA - the Museum of Broadcast Communications". Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ Color television finally comes to South Korea market -- with a rush, Christian Science Monitor, 17 March 1981
  4. ^ South Korea Archived 7 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine, The Museum of Broadcast Communications, Retrieved on 21 March 2009