Media and the Politics of Citizens' Press Movement in Korea, 1985-1993
Department of Communication
Pusan National University, Korea
phone: +82-51 510-2109
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Paper submitted to International Communication Division
1995 AEJMC Annual Conference
Citizens' Press Movement in Korea
Media and the Politics of Citizens' Press Movement in Korea, 1985-1993
With the tide of political democratization in the late eighties, new
social movements have flourished in various sectors of the Korean
society. For instance, "citizens' press movements" have challenged the
mainstream media. Those movements represent attempts at the grass
level to reform problems of the press. On the theoretical level, the
notions of the civil society and new social movement became hot issues
among social theorists in Korea (e.g., Korean Sociological
Korean Political Science Association, 1992). However, most literature
remained on the abstract level, and failed to examine the concepts
empirically in Korean context.
This paper traces the trajectory of citizens' press movements and delves
into the characteristics of those movements and, more
civil society in Korea. This paper also explores whether the Western
notions of the civil society and new social movement are applicable in
the historical circumstances of the Korean society. To what extent
citizens' press movements in Korea are similar to new social movements?
What makes the Korean phenomena distinct from their counterpart in
Western hemisphere? Where do such differences come from? Given the
nature of the issue, this paper relies on exemplary historical instances
and speculates on their implications.
II. The Concepts of the Civil Society and New Social Movement.
The unfolding of social movements reflects particular characteristics
and problems of the societal structure in which they take place.
specifically, one has to understand citizens' press movements within
structural context of the state, the civil society, and the market
which the press is closely associated. The trilogy of the state, the
civil society, and the market has been a useful conceptual framework
analyzing the media.
However, those key concepts derive from the historical experience of the
European societies, making applications to Korean society
problematic. What complicates the matter further is the fact that
essential concepts have diverse meaning, depending on the context.
instance, the civil society refers often to the realm of the economy
market, while in other context it may also suggest the non-state
including the market(Shin, 1991). In this paper, however, I would
to define the civil society as a realm, akin to what Juergen
Habermas(1974) calls "the public sphere." In the civil society, the
quest for common good or universal values takes place, but neither the
institutionalized political action prevails as in the state nor the
private-interest seeking as in the market.
In the West European societies, the civil society is to a certain extent
a historical entity closely associated with the advent of
The press represents a good historical example of such an area.
the notion of the civil society is more useful as a "normative"
than a historical phenomenon. The conceptual trilogy of the market,
civil society, and the state not only provides ways of analysis, but
also implies a diagnosis of problems and prescriptions. Consequently,
the framework might be infeasible in the circumstances of Korea. For
instance, the state and the market represent two major forces, which
have undermined the possibility of the media as a potential realm of
civil society or public sphere. Primarily in the European context,
Keane(1991) suggests the market as the primary cause for the
disappearing public sphere.
Because Korea has rapidly grown up as a capitalist society under a
bureaucratic-authoritarian regime, the civil society, including media,
has failed to maintain autonomy from the state and diversity of
With the inception of a legitimate civilian government in 1988,
competition and deregulation, under the rhetoric of "globalization,"
have emerged to replace the state control as a potentially threatening
force to the civil society. However, the problem is not that simple.
Korea the market is not necessarily the primary force that undermines
the autonomous, critical, and public nature of the press as a part of
the civil society. Despite the end of authoritarian government, the
press is still blamed with being extremely conservative and maintaining
symbiotic relations with the state. The lack of the tradition of
critique and autonomy has plagued the Korean press even after political
democratization brought power to the press.
The problem might derive from within the press, as well as outside. For
instance, in Korea, the press has been not only a commercial
but also a political institution involved in power-distributive
For instance, many local newspapers fail to represent diverse
voices, and instead are closely intertwined with the interests of
dominant elite groups at the local level. In a sense, the press, large
or small, has become a conservative interest group on its own.
the commercial press system has been prevailing principle, the market
mechanism has revealed serious problems of market failure without
sustaining the efficiency of competition. For example, daily newspapers,
which are purely under the market system, often break rules on the
business. The business relations between the press and advertisers
also asymmetrical; newspapers often yield their power to draw more
subscription and advertising.
In sum, the locus of the press in Korea may seem idiosyncratic within
the framework of the state-civil society-market trilogy. The
problems of the Korean press may be somewhat different from the
cases. Consequently, social movements arising from such particular
circumstances may well have unique aspects.
The notion of new social movement is based on historical experience. In
the West, new social movements followed old social movements, after
whose issues were incorporated and institutionalized as a part of the
political process. In old social movements, marginal social groups
within the hierarchy of power attempt to represent their material
interests in the polity. Labor movement is a typical example of old
social movements. On the other hand, new social movements are in pursuit
of universal values, which are excluded in the existing political
process. Table 1 shows a general comparison of both types of movements
(Offe, 1985, p.832; Scott, 1990, p.19).
TABLE 1. Comparison of Old and New Social Movements
socioeconomic groups acting as groups(in the groups' interest) and
involved in distributive conflict
socioeconomic groups acting not as such, but on behalf of ascriptive
increasingly within the polity
political integration, economic rights
changes in values and lifestyle, defense of civil society
network, grass roots
medium of action
direct action, cultural innovation
Social movements developing within specific circumstances may betray the
theoretical typology based on the historical experience of the
society. This paper attempts to uncover such idiosyncrasies and their
implications for cultural politics in Korea. This paper also addresses
the question of whether it is possible to regard citizens' press
movement as a form of new social movement.
III. Characteristics of Citizens' Press Movement
Citizens' press movement is a rather ambiguous term, which gained
currency in Korea around the turn of the decade. It is a form of press
reform movement at the grass root level. But it is distinct from
alternative media movement and partisan journalism based on the class
politics, in that citizens' press movement, as with new social
movements, claims to have its base on non-class coalitions ranging over
diverse social groups. The origin of citizens' press movement goes
to the 1960s. In 1964, for example, civilian groups rose to repeal a
bill of press ethics council, which the government introduced
to control newspapers. However, such intermittent movements developed
into more consistent and organized "audience movements" in the 80s.
License Fee Boycott Campaign in the mid-eighties was a nation-wide
movement against commercialism and biased reporting of the public
television, i.e., Korean Broadcasting Station(KBS). After the Council of
Women's Organizations initiated a media monitoring group in 1984, many
organizations opened similar programs.
A few organizations, e.g., the Council of Democratic Press
Movements(CDPM) or the Citizens' Group for Audience Movement (CGAM) of
YMCA, have specialized in issues regarding media. But citizens' press
movements have mostly taken place as subsidiary activities of existing
organizations established for other causes. Especially, religious
groups, including Protestant, Buddhist, and Catholics, or women's
organizations have been instrumental in citizens' press movements. In
Korea, religious groups represent a few arenas, which have maintained
autonomy even under the authoritarian government. In a sense,
groups continue the tradition of democratization movement since the
1960s. In the eighties, women's groups have increased in number and have
played more central role in citizens' press movements. Another
distinctive feature is that most organizations are either nation-wide or
concentrate in Seoul, the capitol of Korea. Local organizations in
areas are rare.
When major issues broke out, individual organizations combined to form
temporarily a broad coalition. Table 2 shows examples of coalitions
citizens' press movements (Koo, 1992, p. 21; Kim, 1991, pp.242-243;
CSERW, 1993, pp.72-73; CCFCEC, 1992; ACSNT, 1993, pp.71-72; KFPU
Newsletter, Dec. 2, 1991; ASBR press release, Sept. 20, 1993).
TABLE 2. Temporary Coalitions in Press Movements
Christian Movement for License Fee Boycott
Jan. 20, 1986-?
Joint Commission for License Fee Boycott and Free Press
catholic & Protestant churches, opposition party, non-party politicians' group,
women's' organizations, CDPM
Sept. 15, 1986-?
Women's Coalition for License Fee Boycott
17 women's organizations
May 15, 1987-?
Citizens' Movement for License Fee Boycott
catholic and Protestant churches
Sept. 20, 1988-?
Joint Commission against Obscenity and Violence of Sports Newspaper
17 Christian organizations, Seoul YMCA, catholic youth organization
Nov. 9, 1990-December 20, 1990
3 Christian organizations, YMCA, a women's' organization, CDPM, Korean Media
Group(KMRG, a critical communication researcher group), National
Nov. 26, 1991
Citizens' Solidarity for Election Reporting Watch (CSERW)
CDPM, KNCC Press Commission, KMRG, a women's organization, catholic & Buddhist
Feb. 20, 1991-?; Sept. 4, 1992-Feb. 9, 199
Citizens' Coalition for Fair and Clean Election Campaign (CCFCEC)
57 civil groups including YMCA, Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, YWCA,
Association of Trade Unions, National Commission of Farmers'
first half, 1992
Audience Commission for Say No to Television (ACSNT)
42 organization, including those of women, parents, senior citizens, Christian,
catholic, handicapped, and local YMCAs.
June 28, 1993-July 10, 1993
Audience Solidarity for Broadcasting Reform (ASBR)
11 organizations, including those of women, Christian, catholic, Buddhist, YMCA,
Sept. 20, 1993-?
Until political democratization in 1988, citizens' press movement
remained a part of broader social movements for political
democratization. For instance, License Fee Boycott Campaign around
proceeded under the leadership of Protestant churches. The
expanded soon to subsume broad range of social groups, regardless of
political lines, such as an opposition party, non-party politicians,
various religious groups, and women's organizations. However, a
nation-wide political movement turned gradually into a specialized press
reform movement after 1987. With the democratization of institutional
polity, activists with a career of political struggle joined parties
a newly founded opposition newspaper. Consequently, participants in
press movements began to be de-politicized.
As with new social movements in the West, citizens' press movement in
Korea seems to be hardly based on class politics. Major actors
mostly of young women in their twenties and thirties, and students
religious groups still occupy considerable part. For instance, female
predominance in press movements might be due to the fact that women
more time for social activities and are in a position to feel
sensitively problems of media in relation to their everyday life. But it
is also due to the patriarchal structure that has circumscribed
opportunities for well-educated women in Korea.
In terms of organizations, citizens' press movements in Korea are quite
distinct from the grassroots-network type of new social movements.
Intellectuals and celebrities play pivotal role rather than professional
activists or well-organized grassroots network, in the process. Press
movement organizations in Korea tend be a hierarchy working downward
from above. Furthermore, although many organizations emphasize
uniqueness of their activities, their issues and political lines are not
quite divergent. Nevertheless, attempts to form a broad coalition
diverse groups around crucial issues often broke up at the final
The trial to forge the Citizens' Solidarity for Election Reporting
in 1992 ended up with separate small coalitions. It is presumably due
the struggle for internal hegemony (Lee, 1992, p.2). Of course, the
grassroots nature of new social movements might make it difficult to
organize heterogeneous forces on a broad range, but the
celebrity-centeredness might have aggravated the potential split.
Interpersonal networks or connections among leaders, rather than
differences in political orientation, might have been more influential
in the specific formation of organizations.
2) Major issues
New social movements generally address issues, which are not directly
related to class interests of participant groups. In this respect,
citizens' press movements in Korea are not quite exceptional. Table 3
shows major issues of citizens' press movements (Kim, 1991,
Constitution of ASBR; ACSNT, 1993, p.66; CSERW, 1993; CCFCEC, 1992;
Newsletter, Dec. 2, 1991.).
TABLE 3. Issues of Major Press Movements
License Fee Boycott
-to boycott television license fee
-to stop biased reporting
-to stop advertising in
the public television
-to stop sensationalism
-to stop pro-
Anti-yellow newspaper campaign(1990)
-to request sports newspapers to stop obscenity, violence of content
-to boycott products of advertisers
-to reform sensationalism of newspapers
-to restore social
Anti-payola("chonjie") campaign (1991)
-citizens' watch for
-to support good
-to stop chonjie-taking
-to encourage uncorrupted
-to restore autonomy of journalism
Citizens' Solidarity for Election Reporting Watch (1992)
-to watch and indict bias, distortion, unfairness of election reporting
-to encourage fair reporting by the press
Citizen's Coalition for Fair and Clean Election Campaign (1992)
-to watch election reporting
-o encourage fair reporting by the press
Turn Off Television Today Campaign (1993)
-turn off television for one day
-to publicize about problems of television
-to exercise pressures on broadcasting companies
-to activate audience movements through the experience of coalition
-to restore the social responsibility and public status of broadcasting
Audience Solidarity for Broadcasting Reform (1993)
-to prepare policy alternatives in financing,
audience participation, broadcasting laws
-to watch for the program quality
-to encourage publicness, fairness, autonomy, diversity
-to prevent commercialism of the public broadcasting.
-to keep commercial broadcasting healthy
-to affirm the audience sovereignty
The most conspicuous agenda of press movements in the 80s include
sensationalism, violence, and biased reporting of the media, especially
television. The values underlying these issues may be summarized as
"fair reporting," public responsibility of media, and
anti-commercialism. In that the critiques underscore the autonomy and
social responsibility of the press, they suggest what are close to
social responsibility theory. Although anti-commercialist tendency is
recurrent in most cases, the market system itself is not denied. In a
word, citizens' press movements hardly propose alternative values
to the status quo. While criticizing the established media, the
critiques tend to emphasize reforms within, rather than groping for
alternative modes of media.
In Korea, the notion of media as a public realm distinct from the market
seems to have secured legitimacy among the public, as well as in
official discourses on media. Such a notion is distinctive in comparison
to the Anglo-Saxon notion of the freedom of the press which is
related to property rights. In ideological terms, citizens' press
movements are not quite aberrant from what the status quo advocates. In
a sense, the ideological struggles between both parties have
with recourse to similar discursive resources. Not surprisingly, what
has distinguished citizens' movements from the status quo may be
and moral legitimacy of actors rather than ideological spectrum.
Same issues may have diverse implications, depending on the context.
License Fee Boycott campaign took issue of biased reporting and
sensationalism of media, but under authoritarian government helped
undermine the legitimacy of the government itself, thereby expanding to
a political movement. However, after 1988, similar agenda came to
First, in 1992, two coalitions of citizen's groups initiated campaigns
of election reporting watch. These organizations monitored election
reporting and made an issue of problematic cases. These campaigns have
taken advantage of the legally legitimate space, which has enlarged
the official democratization of the state. This issue indicates that,
despite the official claim to the democratization, the infrastructure
and political practices of the state still remains considerably
Second issue involves a reaction against sensationalism of media.
Typical examples include the crusade against obscene and violent content
of sports newspaper in 1990, and Turn off Television Today campaign
1993 (see Kim, 1991; Kim, 1993). These movements remain in the
of License Fee Boycott campaign, but unlike their precursors they are
mostly de-politicized. These cases reflect everyday-life concerns of
middle-class as media consumers. Except intermittent collective
most activities consist primarily of monitoring television. The
of monitoring emphasize the public responsibility and educational
of media, and tend to be conspicuously moralistic.
These campaigns pursue changes in particular programs or practices,
without any institutional, structural reforms. Major participants are
middle-class women, i.e., the target of consumer product advertising.
some cases, attempts to boycott particular products, which sponsored
programs in question, led television stations to cancel or change the
target programs. Although new social movements are not necessarily
accompanied by visible results, press movements in Korea sometimes led
to an immediate response, or even a "surrender," from the mainstream
media, be it mostly a symbolic one.
Third issue is a "desirable" video culture campaign, such as
"Gun-Be-Yeon"(Citizens' Group for a Healthy Video Culture) or Video Shop
Owners' Group for Good Video Culture of YMCA. Both represent efforts
keep youths and children from watching obscene and violent videos,
encourage the audience to see wholesome videos.
The issues raised by press movements are not deemed as illegitimate even
within the official political sphere. Although the commercial
the major backbone of Korean media, regulatory devices over the
mechanism have already been institutionalized. Especially the
broadcasting sector is close to a public system, but except the state
and capital, various political forces and civil sectors are virtually
excluded from the "public" decision-making process. Political
democratization failed to entail substantial changes in the state
monopoly over the broadcasting sector. In a sense, press movements in
Korea are officially legitimate claims expressed outside the official
While issues of press movements diversified after political
democratization, class-wide and nation-wide concerns, as before 1988,
have virtually disappeared in major political events. Given the fact
that the state secured political legitimacy, it became much less
feasible for the government to make a politically disastrous blunder as
to provoke public reaction on a national scale. While some movement
groups have tried to form nation-wide coalitions in vain, small-scale
campaigns based on everyday life concerns of the middle-class got
popularity. Citizen's press movements in recent years began to reflect
the particular concerns of major participants rather than "universal"
values. Consequently, in this context, Kang(1993) argues convincingly
that citizens' press movements should make a strategic turn to
decentralized movements in various social arenas.
Another feature of citizen's press movements is its lack of
institutional or structural issues. Press movements have aimed at
resolutions of visible short-term conflicts rather than structural
contradictions which generate those symptoms. Above all, the myopic
tendency of strategic goals might come from inherent limitations of
grassroots action. In order to mobilize heterogeneous groups into
action, the agenda might well be limited to short-term goals. However,
the amateurism of celebrity leaders might be another reason for the
ambiguity of directions. This interpretation is consolidated by the fact
that citizens' groups failed to have any voice in the major policy
making process in broadcasting sectors. In other words, the leadership
has succeeded in developing newsworthy events, but failed to develop
clear ideological blueprints or alternatives. Another reason might be
politically conservative nature of press movement, which rarely goes
beyond the given institutional framework. While struggles remained wit
hin the ideological and institutional confine of the system,
the impacts of those movements on the system are hard to notice.
In sum, citizens' press movements have raised issues and conflicts,
which are not based on class interests of specific social strata and
not be resolved within the given polity. They apparently have much in
common with new social movements in the West. Nevertheless, press
movements in Korea hardly challenge the dominant value system of the
status quo. Instead, they make efforts to "normalize" the inherent
functions or roles of the state and the market. In a word, the political
orientation of citizen's press movements in Korea is moderate
3) Medium of action and expression
In general, citizens' press movements have employed non-violent,
peaceful ways of expression within the legally permitted limit.
Citizen's press movements have depended primarily on modes of symbolic
action and expression, such as media events. Direct actions, such as
boycotting license fee or advertised product, are exceptional cases.
Nevertheless, specialized activities, such as legal consulting,
issues, or lobbying to the Legislative, have been rare.
Citizens' press movements mostly took advantage of the legal space,
instead of challenging it. License Fee Boycott campaign under the
authoritarian government got into conflict with the state. But the
confrontation has ended with political democratization. It was not
uncommon for representatives of movement groups to show up as
participants in televised debates, or to join official institutions as
representatives of citizen's groups. Their leadership in movements
them a sort of celebrity(or vice versa), and they might provide a
potential pool for recruitment to government or political organizations.
Despite the active liaison with the polity, it is surprising that
movements hardly led to visible institutional reforms. However, press
ombudsman established by most major newspapers and broadcasting
companies have to be considered as accomplishment of citizen's press
For channels of publicity, press movements depended on mainstream media
rather than establishing their own. Except the target media,
media have allotted space for reporting developments of movements.
1988, newspapers assigned even a fixed page for media, where they had
extensive coverage of press movements. For instance, major newspapers
reported in detail on License Fee Boycott campaign. In Anti-yellow
newspaper campaign, major broadcast networks gave coverage of statements
and proceedings(Kim, 1991, pp.245-246). In the West social movements
have been deemed hardly newsworthy by major media and consequently
attempted to develop "media events" to attract the attention of the
mainstream press. On the contrary, mainstream media in Korea, especially
those in direct competition with the target media, contributed
considerably to press movements. In a sense, citizens' press movements
became a big event business through which various groups and
get publicity. This might be one of the reasons why the initiatives
newsworthy celebrities, rather than organized activities, became a
trait of citizens' press movements in Korea.
4) Pros and Cons
One of the clues to understanding social movement is who are the pros
and cons. Not surprisingly, they might vary depending on what the
are and how broad the coalition is. Which groups are in direct
with press movement groups? The following table shows a few examples
strategic relations of conflict and cooperation in major movements.
TABLE 4. Strategic Relations of Cooperation and Conflict
License Fee Boycott campaign
newspapers; opposition parties; political forces outside the polity
the government; broadcasting network; broadcasting advertisers
Anti-yellow newspaper campaign
broadcasting network; other newspapers
sports newspapers; newspaper advertisers
Election Watch (CSERW, CCFCEC)
the ruling party; newspapers; broadcasting networks
Turn off Television Today campaign
television networks; television advertisers
What is notable is the relation between the state and movement groups.
In the License Fee Boycott campaign, the government's lack of
legitimacy led even ideologically moderate movements to direct
confrontation with the government. In later instances, however, conflict
disappears. The election watch, for instance, could undermine the de
facto benefits of the ruling party, but the campaign hardly provoked
manifest reaction from the government. Under the civilian government,
moreover, the need for reforms made possible the strategic cooperation
between press movement groups and the state. In some cases, press
movement groups took partial aid from the state.
It is also highly suggestive to look at how strategic relations among
different movement groups are formed. Because press movements since
1980s have rarely involved issues controversial among political
informal factors have exerted influence in forming coalitions. Above
all, interpersonal networks, as well as differences in political
orientation, have played considerable role in Korea. For instance,
radical groups and unions tend to consider citizens' groups as
"middle-class" reformism. Regardless of issues in question, some of
citizen's organizations are allergic to groups with the history of
political struggles. Such difference in organizational sentiment has
often affected even activities on the official level.
On-going changes in political situation might trigger potential conflict
within the press movements as well. In the eighties, the
undifferentiation of issues encouraged heterogeneous social groups to
gather under one banner of common cause, which is irrelevant to
interests. However, if issues become more specific in the near
heterogeneity of political orientation and material interests among
movement groups might emerge to the surface. While, as with new social
movements, citizens' press movements hardly rely upon
they reflect the peculiarity and limitations of participating strata.
IV. Trade Unionism as New Social Movements?
In general, labor movements pursue class-specific interests. However,
press labor movements in Korea reveal some features of new social
movements. Most trade unions in major Korean media underscore as the
primary goal of organizational activities the cause of the freedom of
the press, which is similar to what citizen's press movements have
pursued. Specifically, not only the monetary concerns but also the
issues of "editorial rights" and fair reporting have been central
in labor disputes. The view of press labor movement as a form of new
social movement is not only a "normative" claim, but also in part a
political reality in Korea(for a similar view, Kang, 1993).
Even in the market system, historically, the press has been a special
realm distinct from other businesses. But the peculiarity of the
socio-political context has also influenced the specific trajectory of
trade unionism in Korean media. Since the first establishment of
unions in 1987 and the subsequent legalization of the Korean
of Press Unions(KFPU), regular channels of negotiation have been
established to resolve labor disputes. However, some conflicts went
beyond the boundary of the shop floor dispute and expanded to
nation-wide concerns. Then, the management-labor conflict turned into a
confrontation between a coalition of union/citizens' groups and that
the press and the state. In this case, each side attempts to relate
case to a kind of a "common cause." The following table shows
cases, which extended to larger social movements ("Media chronicles"
Journalism, Spring-Summer 1990-Winter 1992; KFPU, 1990; 1994).
TABLE 5. Labor Disputes Which Became Social Issues.
Medium of action
For a minor misdemeanor, the government fired the president of KBS, who was the
elected by employee voting. The police dispersed and arrested union
members, who went
on a sit-down strike. (1990.2-5)
National Council of Trade Unions; National Council of College Student
Korean Association of Journalists; Lawyers Group for Democracy;
Coalition for Economic Justice, Council of Women's Organizations;
National Council of
Christian Women, YMCA, Citizen's Group for Consumer Affairs;
White-Collar Unions; Journalism Professors Group, National Federation of
Organizations, National Federation of Artists, et al
demonstration; issued statements; formed a joint organization; protest visit to
prime minister; sit-in strike by other industry unions; public
The government proposed an amendment of the Broadcasting Act, in order to
commercial television. (1990.6)
KNCC, opposition parties, Faculty Council for Democratization(Jun-Book
Union of Christian Social Movement(Jun-Book Province), Council of
Journalists, Journalism Faculty Group, and other journalists' organizations.
formed a joint organization; issued statements.
In labor negotiations, the management of MBC television network demanded the
of major agreements of previous years: the direct election of major
officers and joint
council for fair broadcasting. The management then terminated
consent from the union. The labor took this as a threat to the union
and went on a
strike. Police arrested union members. (1992.8-9).
Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, KNCC. Faculty Council for
National Council of Trade Unions, YMCA, National Union of Women's
Pharmacist Association for Healthy Society, Journalism Faculty Group,
formed a joint organization; public hearings on the issue; outdoor assembly;
campaign; campaign for fund-raising
These instances are concerned with broadcasting. It is presumably
because there is a general consensus on the status of broadcasting as a
"public" resource and a realm independent of the state and market.
surprisingly, the apparently diverse sources of the above disputes
converge on a common concern, i.e., the autonomy of broadcasting from
the state. Social groups involved in the protest interpreted the
instances as government's strategy for extending influence on the
Such an interpretation may be attributed to the structural problem of
the media system in Korea. Broadcasting in Korea is two-tiered
the public and commercial networks. Even in commercial broadcasting
sector, i.e., MBC, any monopoly by particular capital or social groups
is strictly prohibited. In reality, however, the state has seized
the public and private sectors, and other forces have been excluded
the broadcasting sector. In other words, despite the trend to
"deregulation," the state power has not diminished in Korea. It is
inevitable that such a monopoly may cause social conflicts in major
With a few exceptions, most labor disputes remain within media
organizations. But especially in major media, even internal issues tend
to focus on "non-economic" issues(see Kang, 1989). This phenomenon,
bizarre in labor-management relations, may be attributable to the
peculiar circumstances of the Korean media in the 80s. First of all,
since the 1980s, the wage level of media employees has been
high in comparison to other white-collar jobs. In 1980, the state
intervened in the media market and restructured it by force to an
artificial structure of oligopoly in broadcasting and national dailies,
and regional monopoly in local dailies. The absence of competition
the industry to rapid growth. The state solicited the management to
improve wage levels and fringe benefits of media employees dramatically,
to appease their discontent. The material compensation came from the
extra-profits, which the monopolization of the industry yielded.
It is also discourses regarding the role of media in Korea that prevent
labor movements from pursuing monetary concerns. The traditional
discourse on journalism has emphasized the "public service" role of
journalists. In addition, the memories of "dark" years of the 80s forced
press unions to hold fast to recovering "legitimacy" even at the
sacrifice of material benefits. The taboo on the secularization of
movements is further constrained by the Korean culture, which
discourages people from expressing their secular interests in public.
Nevertheless, in the long run, mundane interests of workers might have
determining impact on labor movements(see Chang, 1992). In Korea,
unions are motivated not only by individual gains of workers but also
those of the company as a whole. One may find a few examples even in
short experience of press labor movement. For instance, in April
the Korean Federation of Press Unions decided to go on an
strike as a protest against the government intrusion into the labor
dispute of KBS, but few local unions followed it. In this case, the
collective benefits of the company took precedence of private gains of
individual workers. In reality, as the romantic enthusiasm for labor
movements faded out increasingly, union members began to lose interest
in the issues, which have no tangible material substance. In the
unionism is expected to underscore shop floor concerns, such as
improvements of working conditions.
Despite internal limitations, press unions will play important role in
press movements in Korea. By tradition, the occupational culture of
Korean journalists has valued highly fights against the government
encroachment of their autonomy. The tradition of heavy government
intervention may not discontinue in the near future, and may trigger
conflicts with press unions. Besides, press unions inevitably will take
strategically important role in struggles for securing civil spheres,
which have not grown properly in the presence of the strong state.
Citizens' press movements in Korea, ranging from the mid-80s to early
90s, reveal typical characteristics of new social movements.
unlike their counterpart in the West, old and new social movements are
not clearly distinguished in press movements in Korea. Despite much
divergence, both pursue similar goals to a certain extent. At this
historical point, press unionism in Korea has much in common with new
For political circumstances in Korea render the differentiation of press
movements infeasible. The media in Korea not only show symptoms of
market failure, but also failed to perform the role of the civil
society. The media often ignore rules for fair competition or rational
business practices; they hardly represent diverse voices of the
as well. The source of problems lies in the state. The media in
especially broadcasting, have claimed to the status of a public
but the tradition of strong state has alienated all social groups,
except the state and the capital, from the area. Nevertheless, problems
of commercial system, such as sensationalism, are to be felt widely.
problem is two-fold: expanding "deregulation"(or commercialization)
media under the highly regulating state. Under the current civilian
government, where discourses of "deregulation" and "globalization"
prevail, this double-sided problem becomes more conspicuous. The
discourse of deregulation in Korea does not imply small government.
Although deregulation entails expanding power of the capital, the state
is expected to play a still dominant role.
In Korea, citizens' press movements represent the voices and complaints
of various social groups, which have been resolved neither through
market nor the political process. However, citizens' movements in
try to render the system of the status quo function properly, instead
groping for alternative values and blueprints. In a word, their
political orientation is basically moderate and conservative.
However, even though the scope of citizens' movements widened, their
action failed to lead to tangible institutional changes. In a sense,
booming movements in effect might legitimize the civilian government,
whose claim to democratic reforms scarcely yielded much visible
The state in Korea hardly developed institutional framework, through
which the voices of the civil society and interest groups are converged
into the system. In a word, despite political democratization, the
society in Korea is extremely fragile, in comparison to the strong
In spite of the subsistence of the authoritarian state, a nation-wide
movement of the last decade is not feasible in the future. The
establishment of the civilian government with political legitimacy
deprived citizens of interest in issues, which are not directly related
to their everyday-life concerns. While issues surrounding the freedom
the press in press union movements is at a low ebb, good video
by YMCA has been successful. Citizens' press movements might shift to
decentralized small-scale activities, based on particular concerns of
various social groups.
Nevertheless, there is still possibility for a class-wide social
movement, such as strategic cooperation between press unions and
citizens' groups. For struggles against the state, both need the
advantages of each other: union maintains an organization with immediate
efficacy, and citizens' groups have a better position in securing
Citizens' press movement may take advantage of strategic cooperation
between citizens' groups and the state established under the civilian
government. The state is not a unified whole. Instead, it may be
a "dominant power bloc"(Freiberg, 1985), which consists of
interest groups. Within the civilian government who took power
merger of three major parties, the ruling minority wants to make the
most of the press for the internal control of the power bloc. The sect
also needs the cooperation of citizens' press movement in order to
reform the established media. Although the mainstream media are in
symbiotic relations with the dominant class, the market situation of
intra and inter-media competition makes them assist citizens' movements
in consequence. Insofar as citizens' movements provide the media with
newsworthy events, the former may secure channels of publicity. If the
movement group takes advantage of strategic ties with the state, it
also expand the legal space within which it may maneuver
Freiberg, J.W. (1985). "Toward a structural model of state intervention
in the mass media: The case of France," Maurice Zeitlin ed. Political
Power and Social Theory, vol.5, Greenwich: JAI Press, 141-167.
Habermas, J.(1974). "The public sphere: An encyclopedia article(1964),"
New German Critique 1(3), 45-48.
Keane, J. (1991). The Media and Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Offe, C. (1985). "New social movements: Challenging the boundaries of
institutional politics," Social Research, 52(4), 817-868.
Scott, A. (1990). Ideology and the New Social Movements, London: Unwin
Audience Commission for Say No to Television (1993). Report on Turn Off
Television Today Campaign.
Chang, Y.H. (1992). "Material base of press union movement and rational
choice of actors," Korean Journal of Journalism and Communication
Studies, 28, 309-335.
Citizens' Coalition for Fair and Clean Election Campaign (1992). Report
on Activities: First Half, 1992.
Citizens' Solidarity for Election Reporting Watch (1993). Report on
Activities in the 14th. Presidential Election.
Kang, M.K. (1989). "Press union movements and the democratization of the
press," Korean Press Yearbook 1989, Seoul: Korean Press Institute.
Kang, S.H. (1993). "Citizens' press movements in the information age,"
The Korean Society and the Press, 3, 86-132.
Kim, K.T. (1989). "Characteristics of media audience movements in Korea:
A case study of Licence Fee Boycott Campaign," Unpublished
Kim. K.T. (1991). "Newspaper readers movement: The case of sports
newspaper readers movement," Journalism, 21, 230-251.
Kim, K.T. (1993). "Media audience movement: The case of Turn Off
Television Today campaign," Newspaper and Broadcasting Monthly, 273,
Koo, N.H. (1992). "The development and effect of Licence Fee Boycott
campaign," Master's Thesis, Chung-book University.
Korean Federation of Press Unions (1990). Democratic Press, vol.1.
Korean Federation of Press Unions (1994). Democratic Press, vol.2.
Korean Sociological Association and Korean Political Science Association
eds. (1992). The State and the Civil Society in Korea, Seoul:
Lee, J.S. (1992). "Achievement and prospects of election reporting watch
campaign," Democratic Press Movement, 10.
Shin, K.Y. (1991). "The civil society and social movements," Economy and
Society, 12, 13-36.
 The typology of goals is taken from Kim(1989, p.154).
2] Product boycott was pronounced in Licence Fee Boycott campaign and
paper campaign. But
it was never put into action.
 For instanc
e, television companies began hours for audience opinions, such as "TV in TV,"
but in e
Sunday mornings when few people watch.
 In the case of T
urn Off Television Today campaign, 83 articles appeared in national dailies.
 The notion of "editorial rights" in Korea is concern
ed with who are the subject of the freedom of the
press. Unlike the
Anglo-Saxon culture, journalists have argued that the right should rest with
floor journalists, not with owners or executives. The genesis of th
is notion is rooted in the public
perception of media as public pro
perty, and at the same time reflects the public distrust of the media
owners and management who have failed to maintain autonomy from the external
es in the political