• Heesang Yoo

Too Many and All Centrally Located!




Korea’s total population is a little over 50 million, and about half of them live in the greater Seoul area, which includes Seoul and Incheon Metropolitan Cities and Gyeonggi Province. A wide range of industries and economies are intensely concentrated in the greater Seoul area, and the same goes for the media. There is still a very small number of media that exists in other major cities in Korea, namely Busan, Daegu and Gwangju, but their importance has been eroding continuously. Media based in Seoul unofficially represents the entire nation and is regarded as national media rather than greater Seoul-based media. Another interesting aspect of Korean media is that there are too many media in Korea compared to Korea’s size and total population. About 20 dailies are published every day in Seoul, and there is a huge number of periodicals and online media that exists mostly in the greater Seoul area. With the overall trend of shrinking advertisement, all Korea media are having financial troubles, especially weaker dailies and periodicals.

In the early 2000’s, there were more than 40 ICT publications, and it was possible to do a separate media briefing for these periodicals. Now almost all media has disappeared, and only a few publications still exist. The same goes for other industry periodicals, such as healthcare, lifestyle, women’s and luxury. Dailies are still surviving, but their financial troubles are only deepening.


Ad Revenue Oriented

Most publications in Korea have been having a hard time due largely to shrinking ad revenue, which started even before the evolution of digital marketing and new digital media. The evolution and strengthening of digital marketing is not unique to Korean publications; rather, it is a global trend. However, Korean publications have felt the impact strongly. The reason behind this is their heavy dependence on ad revenue instead of subscriptions.

Regardless of their type, all publications are heavily dependent on ad revenue, and subscriptions comprise only a very small portion of their earnings. This unique situation has impacted the overall tone and manner of most publications, and they are mostly business friendly. It can also be connected to the overall nationalistic sentiment of media in Korea. Offline publications’ pagination is proportionally arranged according to relative ad revenue. If there is not enough ad revenue from a certain industry, then the pages allocated to that industry is either slashed greatly or completely eliminated. A prime example is healthcare and medical equipment pages. The overall development of the standard of living in Korea is thanks largely to economic growth, which boosted overall interest in health and well-being in the early 2000’s. It paved the way for the initiation of healthcare practice in Korea, which was almost nonexistent prior to the launch of Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction medication. A lot of major dailies and TV stations sought journalists’ experience in the healthcare area, and also pharmacists and doctors. However, healthcare in Korea is strictly regulated, and medical equipment and ethical products can only be advertised in healthcare-related publications. Only over the counter (OTC) products can be advertised in general media. Without supporting ads, the healthcare space has shrunk dramatically and is now almost nonexistent.

Top 3, Top 5

Korean media is classified mainly into broadcast, dailies and online. Broadcast media is categorized as terrestrial or cable channels. The terrestrial channels include KBS, MBC and SBS. KBS is a government-controlled channel, while MBC is a quasi-government one. Only SBS is a commercial channel. Print dailies are split into the subcategories of general, business, sports, IT and English. With the advent of the Internet, there are numerous media on top of periodicals in various industries. There are three major dailies in the general category, namely Chosun, DongA and JoongAng. There are also two major business dailies, Maeil Business Newspaper and Korea Economic Daily. These five publications are commonly called “the top 5” in Korea and have been enjoying a relatively better situation financially and in terms of ad revenue. With the three terrestrial networks, these top 5 publications possess significant influence in Korea’s media industry.


Generalist Rather Than Specialist

Major Korean media cover a lot of different industries and sectors and it is recommended to conduct a two-track approach of taking both vertical and major publication for PR or marcom campaigns. It is advisable to pay attention to not only vertical media but also general publications, especially the previously mentioned top 5 national dailies when reaching key stakeholders or decision makers is ultimate objectives. Regardless of their categorization as general (or consumer), business, sports or IT, most Seoul-based dailies cover a wide range of areas. The only difference lies in their paying more attention to their respective categories, such as business, IT or sports. On top of that, most key stakeholders and decision makers read and follow dailies based in Seoul, especially the top 5 general dailies. The top 5’s influence has diminished a bit, but they still have a huge influence. Hence, it is necessary to continue to take them into consideration.


Understanding these unique aspects of the Korean media scene will help you when you are planning to conduct PR or media relations in Korea.


If you need help, Prism Communications (www.prismcomms.com) can guide you through the process with deep knowledge and insight backed by more than two decades of experience.


The same article is published via LinkeIn (Heesang Yoo, Managing Consultant)

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