Asia Institute Seminar
May 9, 2012
“Korean Media in Comparative Perspective”
Robert W McChesney
Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication
University of Illinois
The reliability of the mainstream media has become an enormous issue in Korea today as many feel that the newspapers and television broadcasts no longer serve a role of keeping citizens informed. Recently the TV comedy show “I am a Selfish Prick” (“Nanun Ggomsu da”) was rated as more accurate than the mainstream media—even though most of its content is tongue in cheek. What exactly is the problem with media and how can we approach it?
Firstly, one must begin understanding that the media is a problem for Korean society. By “problem” I do not mean that the media is poor quality or produces dubious content that has negative effects upon our culture, politics, and society. By this framing, if the media were doing a commendable job, there would be no problem. Whether their content is good, bad or a combination, the media is a problem for any society, and an unavoidable one at that. The problem of the media exists in all societies, regardless of their structure.
So the very existence of media in any country, not just Korea, will bring forth issues that are problematic. Is that is to say there is not a pure state of an objective media that we could reach if we just follow a certain set of policies? To become a democratic society does not make one immune from such problems?
Media are at the center of struggles for power and control in any society, and this is arguably even more the case in democratic nations, where the issue is more up for grabs.
The political nature of the problem of the media in democratic societies is well-known, virtually all theories of self-government are premised on having an informed citizenry, and the creation of such an informed citizenry is the province of the media. The measure of a media system in political terms is not whether it creates a viable democratic society, but whether the media system, on balance, in the context of the broader social and economic situation, challenges and undermines anti-democratic pressures and tendencies, or whether it reinforces them. Read more of this post