Korean Media Bias and Government Intervention in Media, by Ian Howard

On April 18, 2008, the Korean government announced that imports of American beef, long feared because of concerns of mad cow disease, would resume, therefore allowing passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. On April 29, an episode of PD Notebook, an investigative journalism program, aired, greatly exaggerating and misrepresenting the dangers of eating American beef. Combined with rumors spread through the Internet, it served as a catalyst, transforming the growing discontent with Lee’s policies into outright protests against the government. Reacting to evidence of media manipulation designed to incite anti-Lee sentiments, Lee’s administration took actions to reduce media bias, including replacing the heads of several media corporations with government appointees, implementing an Internet real-name system, and allowing cross-ownership of broadcast companies by newspapers and private firms. While there does exist strong evidence that Korean media is susceptible to bias and manipulation, Lee’s policies are likely to damage the gains Korean free speech has made in Korea’s democratization process.

“Korean Media Bias and Government Intervention in Media,” is an excerpt from Part II of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

Ian Howard is a first-year M.A. candidate at SAIS concentrating in Korea and China studies. He holds a B.A. in international business from Washington State University. After graduation, he spent two years in the Kansai region of Japan, where he worked for a Japanese components manufacturer. Afterwards, he spent two years in the Tokyo area and two years in Hong Kong working in film distribution. His academic interests include the potential economic and political consequences of Korean reunification and the risk of conflict between the United States and China such an event could incite.