The Consumption of Korean Television Programs in U.S.A.:
Television Viewing, Gender, and Power
Understanding television viewing is never a simple task. It is a very
complicate activity because watching TV programs should be understood in the
context of everyday lives. The study of television viewing has, therefore,
emphasized the recognition of everyday practices in the framework of researches
into the relation of consumption of television to viewing routine. As Scannell
(1988) proposes, the analysis of television viewing should be focused on the
complex ways in which television viewing is located in the spectrum of everyday
practices in order to earn the significance of this activity. It is to
investigate "context - the specific ways in which particular communications
technologies come to acquire particular meanings and thus come to be used in
different ways, for different purposes, by people in different types of
households" (Morley and Silverstone, 1991: 149). A context is the indispensable
element for understanding meanings, associated with viewing practice of the
interaction between the audience and television programs.
The study of television viewing is a more complex matter and, then, requires
complicate theorization and empirical support if the audiences consume their own
country's cultural products in a foreign country where more program choices are
apparently available. This study concerns the investigation both of viewing
context and of cultural factors that explain why this viewing pattern happens.
The primary questions of this study are "why and how Korean people watch the
Korean television program in America?" Major themes of this study are the
reasons for watching the Korean programs, styles of viewing, control over a
remote-control device, and control over the program choice. The research
concerning these themes is inextricably connected with the assumptions derived
from the perspectives of audience studies. Especially, this research focuses on
the studies of media audiences offered by ethnographic methods. Ethnographic
approach, originally related to anthropology, is to explore various structured
contexts of action through the more detailed description on this action
This study starts with the assumption that the gender role provided by the
society can be revealed in the interaction between men and women within the
domestic sphere. This research focuses on how the different social roles of
gender are operated in the context of television viewing. The reason is that
the home is the microcosm of the whole society. The researchers understand the
home as the most symbolic sphere that men and women are positioned as the
different social roles and, therefore, plan to figure out the different
positioning of men and of women within the domestic sphere. In doing the
research, the researchers try to diagnose some general patterns about this
focus, although the respondents of this study are in so limited range of the
As Ang proposes (1987), male and female patterns of television viewing are not
two separate, discrete types of experience, or expressions of essential natures.
Women's viewing pattern can be understood in relation to men's viewing one.
Taking differences between male and female relations to television viewing as a
highly visible symbol of gender relations, therefore, the researchers attempt to
examine how the structure of domestic power relations works to constitute these
differences. This study, furthermore, plans to show whether the formulation of
the particular social roles between men and women in the family is correlated
with the recognition of the social roles between men and women provided by the
Korean society where Confucian philosophy is dominant. The Confucianism forces
the woman not only to respect her husband but also to learn to be obedient to
II. Literature Reviews: Ethnographic Researches on Television Viewing
The application of ethnographic methods to the media is mainly concentrated on
the studies of television viewing. Morley suggests that the analysis of
television viewing cannot but be reformulated to "take into account its
inscription within the routines of everyday life and the interweaving of
domestic and public discourses, which calls for the use of qualitative
techniques" (Morley, 1992: 151). Therefore, television viewing can be defined
as only "one possible label for a variety of family activities" (Bryce, 1987:
137). Television viewing needs to be considered by connecting with the ordinary
phenomena of everyday life and can show the dynamics of the pervasiveness and
power of contemporary culture.
In ethnographic tradition, research is always a matter of interpreting reality
from the viewer's position, rather than following a correct scientific
perspective. At the simplest dimension, the ethnographer's task is to 'go into
the field' and, by way of observation and interview, to attempt to describe -
and finally interpret - the practices of the subjects in the context (Morley,
1992: 153). As an essential starting-point for the study of television viewing,
in the ethnographic tradition, the audience's pattern of viewing should be
investigated within the context of particular domestic practices and family
settings (Lull, 1987: 320).
An increasing number of television studies claim to be conducted in the
ethnographic tradition. As the current ethnography emphasizes on interpretive
approaches, ethnography of television viewing focuses on the interpretive
perspective on the study of television (Gray, 1987; Lewis, 1991; Liebes &
Livingstone, 1994; Morley, 1980 & 1986; Morley and Livingstone, 1991; Tomlinson,
1989). In The 'Nationwide' Audience Study (Morley, 1980), Morley proposes that
the audiences' involvement and decoding should be differentiated according to
their social positioning when viewing process takes place. Following
ethnographic approach, he uses collective viewing and field interviews as the
key methods. Providing a detailed description of his research project, he
concludes that viewing is not operated along one linear continuum, but operated
along people's different experiences and situations.
Morley, in another research, Family Television Study (Morley, 1986), focuses on
viewing context in the domestic. As the basic unit of television consumption,
the domestic is defined as having internal dynamics of power that are largely
determined by age and gender. The aim of this study is to produce a more
developed model of viewing behavior in which factors such as program type,
family position, and cultural background interrelate to produce the dynamics of
family viewing. He applies an in-depth interview, given in the subjects' home.
He infers that differences in social and material circumstances can result in
differences in how television is used in different households. In two
researches, Morley takes a look at the functions of TV in the context of family
with a focus on how demographic variables influence the use of TV.
Gray (1987) investigates how the context of viewing influences the use of VCRs
in the domestic situations. She explores a contextual understanding of the use
and function of technologies which are incorporated within the domestic sphere
itself and reveals the viewing patterns of new technologies. She proposes that
the meanings and pleasure of video become a home-based experience subjected by
the politics, especially by gender relations within the domestic sphere. This
study finds that viewing choices for many women are often negotiated and the
programs which women enjoy are rarely, if ever, hired by their male partners for
viewing together because they consider such films to be trivial and silly and
women are scoffed at enjoying them. This study confirms the point that the
comprehension of television viewing is a way of making sense of social and
family relationship and gender roles in those relations.
III. Research Design
3. 1 Research Themes
The central questions of this study are "why and how Korean people are watching
the Korean television program in America?" For those questions, this study
intends to look at the following specific issues. What are the factors that
lead to different patterns between men and women? How are the priorities and
preferences of family members negotiated and resolved in relation to conflicting
demands on the use of television in general and of viewing patterns in
particular? In short, we attempt to reveal the interaction between power,
genre, and gender by examining the contexts of television viewing.
In this study, major themes are identified as follows:
1. The reasons for watching the Korean program
2. Styles of viewing
3. Control over a remote-control device
4. Control over program choice and program type preferences
3. 2 The Respondents
To reveal the relationship between power and gender, this study investigates
how the Korean people enjoy their own country's television programs by tracing
viewing context and power structure between men and women. For this purpose,
the respondents are recruited at the campus town of Indiana University, located
at Bloomington. Performing this study in two months from October 1995 to
November 1995, the researchers select the respondents with intention. The
criteria of selecting the respondents are condensed into two elements: 1) people
who are watching the Korean program, 2) people who are married or having a
fiance. We select two married-couples and two unmarried-couples as the
respondents for the one-to-one method in order to maximize comparison between
the married and unmarried people, five people as focus group members, and two
other married-couples for the participation observation. All of them possess a
video recorder. It cannot be denied that the respondents are not recruited by a
scientifically designed random sampling. Because of the intentional sampling,
the respondents can be said as only one small, relatively homogeneous group.
The respondents are divided into two occupational groups: students and
housekeepers. Except for two married-women, all respondents are students of
Indiana University. The respondents possess the similar range of educational
background; except two single men, everyone has a diploma degree. The
respondents' age ranges from 23 to 33. Everyone has stayed from three to seven
years in America, except one unmarried-male who came to America five months ago.
All respondents plan to go back to Korea after finishing their own or spouses'
studying at Indiana University. Although there are some variations in the
reason for going back to Korea within the respondents, all of them agree that
they can get better living quality in Korea, rather than in America. The
respondents are spending a leisure time by watching the Korean television
program, watching American television programs and movies, doing exercise,
drinking and talking with friends, and so on. Among these activities, most
respondents consider watching the Korean drama as the priority for spending
their leisure time. Every female respondent considers watching the Korean TV
programs as the most important leisure. For the most important element of
spending time, however, two men among eight male respondents regard doing
exercise, and three men tell doing exercise and watching the Korean program
3. 3 The Methods
The methods used in this study are the deep interviews, the focus group
interview, and the participant observation. The participant observation is
executed in only one married-couple' house. The interviews are performed in a
fairly open and informal style. Thus, the respondents are encouraged to make
their own interpretations rather than simply respond to questions.
The key method in the study is the one-to-one interviews. Through this method,
four couples are interviewed; among them, two couples are married. This method
is used for developing and clarifying points without the spouse or mate's
presence. The interviewers think that the respondents will produce more
comfortable and natural responses if their counterparts are not together,
although the researchers know that Morley takes the interviews in the presence
of other family members and observes the dialectics of conversation between the
family members (Morley, 1992). The interviewing is open and informal for
producing the most naturalistic responses. Two researchers, one carrying out
two unmarried-couples and another managing two married-couples, do the interview
without cutting the flow of the conversation about the specific questions
As another method for this study, we employ focus group discussion. Focus
group members are totally different from the one-to-one interviews. The
interviewing is non-directive, although there is a mediator. They are made up of
five persons: one married couple, two single men, and one-married man.
Originally we want to make a focus group, comprised by six people, but,
unfortunately, one married woman did not come on the ground of the participation
in the religious meeting. This married-couple helps to recruit the members. Of
them, three people are at the same department, and two people are alumni of the
same University in Korea, together with a mediator. Unlike Lewis's direction
(Lewis, 1991: 90-92), we collect focus group members who are intimate with each
The last method is the participant observation executed in the household. One
couple allows the researchers to investigate the most appropriate context within
the naturalistic setting for the production of the meanings. To get demographic
variables, this couple is interviewed by the one-to-one method after observing.
IV. Description and Interpretation
4. 1 Viewing Hours for the Korean Program
About the question of 'how many hours per week do you watch the Korean
program?', most of the respondents report the watching time as from 3 to 25
hours, except two married-men who answer less than 2 hours. There is no one
watching the Korean program more than 25 hours, while three respondents say that
they are watching the American programs more than 25 hours.
Table 1. Viewing Hours (per week)
Viewing Hours the Korean program the American program
less than 5 5 1
5-15 6 3
15-25 2 6
more than 25 3
Total 13 13 (respondents)
About the question of 'when do you usually watch the Korean program?', most
respondents say that they are watching this program in the evening at weekend.
One unmarried-couple states that they are watching it when they have free time,
irrespective of any day of the week. Some persons respond that they are
sometimes watching it without sleeping for 5-6 hours when they have the time to
watch the program.
4. 2 The Reasons for watching the Korean Program
Watching Korean drama is a kind of the planned activity. Both men and women
describe viewing as an activity to relieve stress.
M-F (Married-Female) 1: Watching the Korean drama is the first
choice to alleviate my stress, although I like doing exercise alone or
with my friends. Furthermore, I can forget the tedium of the housework.
M-M(Married-Male) 1: I enjoy watching the Korean program. When I
need something like being comfortable, I frequently watch the Korean
program. I seldom miss a detailed point while watching the Korean
programs because they are made by my language.
M-M 2: Because of homesick . . .
U-M (Unmarried-Male) 2: I want to be comfortable and to relieve stress.
F-G (Focus Group Member) 1: I watch the Korea program to subdue the
loneliness and it helps me relieve my stress.
These respondents express the reason for watching the Korean drama with
psychological motives. They regard the time of watching videotapes as a leisure
to dissociate themselves from school life and the burden of domestic works. In
addition to it, other respondents reveal the reasons for watching Korean videos
with the cultural and social factors. They enjoy watching the Korean program in
order to follow the social, political, and cultural trends flowed in Korea and
to know the specific mode occurring in Korea such as language, costume style,
hairstyle, and so on.
M-M 1: Because it shows my country's life . . . Whenever I miss my
country, I rent and watch it. Also, I can tell what kinds of language and
what kinds of costumes are popular now in Seoul(the biggest city in
M-F 1: Because of cultural factors . . . Before coming to here, I
seldom watched the Korean drama because I was living in Korea. In America,
however, I cannot enjoy directly the way of the Korean life. That is why
I want to watch it. The American TV programs are not mine. I am not
interested in the ways of the American life.
M-F 2: I am accustomed to Korean culture. Because of it, . . . I do
not know exactly, but I cannot take and enjoy American culture.
U-F(Unmarried-Female) 1: I frequently talk with my friends living in
Korea or in America. I and my friends are spending much time in talking
about the Korean drama. That is the reason why I also watch it.
F-G 2: I want to maintain the Korean way of life through watching the
videotape. In addition to it, the Korean programs allow me to become
aware of changes in social and moral values, and they enable me to get a
chance to make a conversation with my Korean colleagues here.
F-G 4: The American programs are hard for me to understand the
meaning behind the phrase and I do not like them because they contain too
To the question of "are you watching the Korean program in America more
frequently than you watched in Korea?", most respondents say that they watch the
Korean program more regularly in America than in Korea. They find the reasons
for watching the Korean program from social factors. For them, there are lots
of things to enjoy but watching the drama in Korea, but there is nothing to
enjoy but drinking beer with friends, studying, and watching Korean videos at
Bloomington, Indiana. In order to keep the Korean way of life in Bloomington,
they resort to Korean videotapes for recognizing a vicarious Korean social life.
The desire for going back to Korea is one of the most important ground for
watching the Korean program. All respondents regard studying in America not as
a tool for living in America.
From the explanation of why women watch the Korean program does come a central
different point which shows the contrast between male and female. Unlike male
respondents, most female respondents address that they watch the Korean
videotapes because other women watch them. To participate in meetings with
other housewives, they need to have a knowledge about the popular program.
M-F 2: When I first came here with my husband, I had no one to talk
to. I also wanted to be deeply involved in the American life. However,
it was not easy for me to do that because of language problem and cultural
differences. As time went, I became to be familiar with some housewives
who had come here earlier than me and enjoyed the Korean program. After
being familiar with them, I have started to watch the Korean programs
because my friends are enjoying it. I cannot but have the information of
those programs which they favored.
U-F 1: Whenever I visited my country, I had talks with my friends
about the popular program in Korea. I have sometimes enjoyed talking
about the popular program with my friends in America over the telephone.
I have to watch the popular drama not to be behind with those chatting
with my friends.
M-F 1: When I and some housewives meet together, we make conversation
about something such as cooking recipes, big sales, and children
education. We share the information necessary for good housekeeping since
we cannot easily get it without interpersonal intercourse. At the same
time, we always talk about the Korean drama. It makes us cheerful and
The Korean TV program provides them with the opportunity to discuss common
problems of their everyday lives in America. Most women think of watching the
Korean drama as an agent for their social life while most men consider it as a
tool to relieve their stress. These different attitudes influence the ways in
which both women and men watch them. Watching the Korean videotapes is an
important social activity to women while it is a leisure to men.
4. 3 Style of Viewing
Men and women make the distinction between the ways in which they describe
their viewing patterns. About some questions of their attention to television
viewing, men and women all respond that they concentrate on watching the Korean
TV programs, with the desire not to do anything while watching them. It is,
they state, because they do not want to miss anything, to feel easy, and to be
comfortable during television viewing. For them, watching the Korean TV
programs is not a waste time. It is a planned and intentional activity. They
go and rent the videotapes every week. It is an important factor generating
"Pure" television viewing, without doing anything at the same time, is "a
relatively rare occurrence" (Morley and Silverstone, 1991: 150). It is already
examined by some researchers (Bryce, 1987; Certeau, 1984; Gunter and Svennevig,
1987). These researchers note that people are doing something else while
watching television. However, it seems that making conversation with other
family members and making comments on something shown in the program is not
clearly associated with viewing attentively. In this study, one couple states
that they usually make conversations with each other. However they do not
interpret it as an activity that distracts their attention to television
viewing. For them, it is sometimes a means for improving the comprehension on
the drama or the information provided by the drama.
Since watching the Korean TV program is a planned and intentional activity, all
respondents, interviewed by the one-to-one method, state that they usually watch
the Korean program without any interruption to miss anything. However, the
women cannot easily watch it without doing anything in the real context of
television viewing, even if they do not want to be disturbed. Because of a
given (or constructed) social role, they are doing something else while watching
the Korean TV program. When the researchers take the participant observation
from one married-couple, this activity is clearly revealed. The husband just
sits and watches the Korean program. Taking care of their baby, the wife
frequently moves to bring ice cream or the drink to the husband from the
refrigerator, to close the windows, answer the phone, and so on.
It is invariably revealed in the interviews, although there are some variations
according to whether married or not. Married-women state that they cannot watch
television fictions without doing something else when they are watching
television together with their families. They cannot but do something for their
husbands and babies while watching television. It is some kind of duties and
obligations in the name of a wife and mother. They accept the differences of
the social roles between men and women, irrespective of whether they like these
differences or not. One woman mentions that she has a feeling to hate him
because her husband only has the control over watching television.
M-F 1: When I have something to do, I request my husband to turn off
the VCR. . . . However, my husband does not turn off the VCR when I go to
the laundry room, and speak to myself, "You (my husband) are brutal."
Although she shows a hatred against this structuring viewing pattern, she
naturally accepts the fundamental difference of the social roles between men and
women. For her, her husband is the head of the family. Following the tradition
of the Confucianism which regards the man is the head of the family, she tells
that her husband is the head of their family and is respected by other family
members. If being born again, she states that she wants to be born a man
because man is generally treated better than women in the Korean society.
This desire is similarly displayed in every woman. Another married-woman
argues that she would like to be born a man again. It seems that women accept
the given social role according to gender differentiation and general points of
the patriarchal viewpoints with some kinds of frustration and resignation.
Every woman is already accustomed to living as a woman that identifies the
social role. Only one female respondent, one of two unmarried women, says that
she are satisfied with living as a woman because she does not get the
discrimination until now. All of male respondents want to be born as a man
again. Every married-man admits that there are some patriarchal characteristics
in Korea. He regards these characteristics as a universal aspect of human life,
emphasizing they similarly feel that American also has the same aspect. Men
tend to enjoy the lives of a man because they know this world is male-dominant.
For them, the patriarchal tradition is essentially natural.
These attitudes allow men to watch television and to order their wives to do
something else. All married-men state that their wives turn off the VCR if they
want to watch another TV program. About the question of 'do you turn off the
VCR if your wife has to go to the laundry room?,' Two men's reactions are
M-M 1: My wife always wants me to turn off the VCR, but I watch it
alone. It is because I can rewind the VCR when she comes back, or, I can
talk to her about the story that she missed.
M-M 2: I usually turn off the VCR because I know that my wife is
doing housework for the family. I want to watch it with my wife.
The practices of television viewing can be different according to the types of
the household, or according to distinct relationships of each couple. The
researchers do not investigate why this different attitude between two men
happens. Although one man shows more generous(?) attitude to his wife, however,
he does not deny the difference of the social role between men and women. He
states that she should do housework because it is her job against the question
of 'do you feel that the Korean society is associated with male dominance?'
M-M 2: I don't think so. The Korean society is not a male dominated
society. This is because a man and a woman have their own gender roles
that need to be played out. For example, a man ought to work outside the
home and a woman ought to work within the home. In other words, depending
on your gender, your life is planned. I think that it does not signify
male dominance of the Korean society, although my household can exemplify
the rest of the Korean society. My mother has never worked outside the
home and the most critical and valuable tasks needing important decisions
are made by my father.
This structuring difference of the social role does similarly happen in the
case of unmarried-couples. Unlike married respondents, unmarried couples state
that it depends on the space where they watch the program against the question
of 'who brings the drink or does other work when they watch the Korean program
together?' When women watch it together in their boyfriends' houses, men and
women agree that men usually do something while watching it because men better
know where something is and which drink he has now. However, they describe that
women do something much more than men while watching the program. About doing
something else while watching drama, one woman responds that it is more
comfortable for herself.
Especially, when the couple watches it with other Korean friends, women do
something more than men do.
U-M 1: I am living with my brother. When we are watching the Korean
drama with my brother and other friends, my girlfriend usually does
something, such as bringing the drink and making foods for me, my brother,
and our friends. Although we do not enforce her to do something, she does
something else without the hesitation while watching it. I like this
behavior because, I think, it is natural and good.
This style of viewing reveals that every woman, whether she is married or not,
is already accustomed to the patriarchal viewpoints, although women show some
variations about their reactions and evaluations to male-dominant systems.
Rather, women easily accept the difference of the social role between men and
women, whether they like or not. As mentioned above, this difference of
role-taking makes a clear contrasting account for the comprehension of the
discrepancy of viewing patterns between men and women. The formulation of the
different role-taking allows men and women to position them differently within
the home. Therefore, the structure of domestic relations, produced by socially
constructed role between men and women, constitutes the difference of viewing
activity between men and women.
4. 4 Control over a Remote-Control Device
Masculine power is evident for those families who have a remote-control device.
Most women in our sample do not have the power to control a remote-control
M-F 1: I do not touch a remote-control device, when I am watching
television or video with my husband.
M-M 2: I always control a remote-control device. I don't know why. I
think that I hold it habitually when we start to watch TV. When I was in
Korea, my father did so. Also, when my father was not at home, I
controlled it without any objection from my mother and sisters.
U-M 1: He usually has it. I do not care because he is better at
controlling a mechanical device than me.
Only one unmarried-woman has it in her hand while watching Korean programs
together with her boyfriend. Nevertheless, she states that she does usually use
this device according to her boyfriend's requests, such as heightening the
volume, rather than she uses it according to her will.
Masculine power over the remote-control device is clearly seen in participant
observation. Every man grabs the remote-control device. Women do not always
have it, as their fathers always have this device before the marriage. This
device can be interpreted men's symbolic property as a means revealing masculine
power in the home. It is a symbol of gender relations, which conditions the
difference of the social roles between men and women.
One woman complains that her husband does channel-flicking across programs when
she is trying to watch something else, using a remote control obsessively.
M-F 2: I do not like it. I hate my husband. Whenever he changes
channels, I complain and sometimes scream against him. However, he does
not care about my strong objection to his changing channels. I really do
not like watching TV with my husband.
Even if she complains her husband's frequent changing channels, she does not
criticizes her husband's monopolization of a remote control.
These findings are similarly displayed in Morley's research. Morley's
research(1992) shows that the control of the remote-control device is not
related to biological differences between men and women. Defining the
possession of a remote-control device as "a highly visible symbol of condensed
power relation," Morley emphasizes that this power relation is based on "a
social definition of a masculinity of which employment is a necessary and
constituent part" (Morley, 1992: 147-148).
4. 5 Control over Program Choice and Program Type Preferences
In program choice, every married-man does not get the power over the choice.
The reason is as follows:
M-F 1: I always select it because I get more information about what
kinds of programs are interesting from other people.
M-M 2: My wife selects it because my wife watches it much more than
me. That is the reason why she selects it. Also, she can get much
information about which program is interesting through the conversation
with other housewives.
P-C 1: I(a wife) always select it. I share the rented tape with
other two housewives because it saves money and makes discussions about
the program. I sometimes borrow the program to which my husband wants.
It reveals that watching the Korean program is one of the married-women's
primary activities. They spend much time in the home while their husbands go to
school for studying. About the question of 'who changes the TV channel when
your couple are watching American programs together?', married-couples state
that men control a remote-control device while watching TV programs. It seems
that women's choice of the Korean program is not connected with the power
relation in the home. Men allow their wives to choose the program because they
understand why their wives are enjoying the Korean drama in the different
culture. As observed at the remarks of one husband, selection of Korean drama
is within the power of male.
M-M 1: It depends. When I have a time for watching TV, for example,
during the vacation, I sometimes select a Korean soap opera that my wife
wants to like. During the semester, however, my wife usually selects it.
If I think that a selected program is not interesting, I can tell my wife
not to rent it anymore.
For unmarried-couples, they state that they together rent videotapes from the
Oriental Store. It is because watching Korean drama is the key activity for
enjoying together. Therefore, they select videotapes, considering each other's
U-M 1: I know what kind of drama she does not like. When I want to
rent the videotape that she does not like, I watch it alone.
U-F 1: Since we know each other's taste, we do not have to negotiate
for the selection of the videotape.
In the case of unmarried-couples, the different preference to the program
causes solo viewing. Men state that their girlfriends do not like watching
political drama. One unmarried-woman mentions that she sometimes rents and
watches some kinds of soap operas alone that her boyfriend does not like. In
married-couples, men like political drama and women do not like it. Women
usually watch political drama with their husbands, however, men seldom watch
soap operas with their wives. Thus, women watch what they want to when their
husbands are not in the home. Housewives even tend to behave like not watching
it anymore if their husbands do not want to watch.
M-F 1: If that is very interesting, I rent and watch it during the
absence of my husband. I turn off the VCR when my husband comes back.
M-M 1: My wife constantly watches the videotape, even though I say
not to watch it. I turn off the switch of the VCR whenever I see my wife
watch a Korean soap opera which I do not want my wife to watch. She
complains my behavior like that. After doing that, however, she
frequently tells me that she will not watch it anymore or will not watch
it when I am at home.
Women want to secure their private sphere in the family in which the different
role between male and female is embodied in forming the pattern of viewing.
They seek a pleasure from watching their favorite soap opera when they are alone
at home. This finding is supported by Radway's research (1991). She finds that
many women interviewed connect their reading of romantic fiction with their rare
moments of privacy from the endless demands of family and work life. In effect,
her respondents seem to feel that reading the romance is almost a declaration of
independence. By picking up a book, the woman is effectively tearing down a
barrier between herself and the arena of regular family duties.
V. Discussion and Conclusion
This study attempts to analyze television viewing in the consideration of
everyday practice. The researchers try to investigate why the respondents
prefer the programs of their country and enjoy them more than those of a foreign
country, although the respondents are in a foreign country in which there are
lots of program choices. Primary concerns of this study are condensed into the
questions both of "why and how Korean people watch Korean television program in
America?," and of "whether Korean people embrace the patriarchal viewpoints
generally revealed in the Korean society and its television program 'in
America'?" Watching the Korean program is a planned activity. All of the
respondents describe viewing not only as an activity to relieve stress but also
as a means to get the information about the social, political, and cultural
trends in Korea.
In order to reveal the relationship between power and gender, this study
investigates Korean television programs by tracing viewing context and power
structure between men and women in the domestic sphere. For this purpose, we
focus on four themes: the reasons for watching the Korean program, styles of
viewing, control over a remote-control device, and control over program choice
and program type preferences.
Men and women explain the dissimilarity of their viewing habits according to
the different social role, constituted by gender relations in a society and in
the home. It can be suggested that the different viewing habits are formulated
by the construction of the particular social roles that men and women are
positioned, not by essential biological differences. The home can be shown as
the most symbolic sphere in which men and women are living together with the
different social roles.
Comparison between men and women reveals the significant differences in four
themes investigated. For the reasons for watching Korean program, men and women
show the contrasting accounts for one of reasons. Most female respondents
describe watching television as an agent for their social life, while their
husbands or boyfriends do not express it. To participate in meetings with
friends and other women, they cannot but contact the Korean popular program.
Most of men respondents state that they watch it in order to alleviate stress
and to get the information of the Korean life.
In styles of viewing, both men and women respond that they concentrate on
watching Korean TV programs, with the desire not to do anything while watching
them. Women cannot generally watch it without doing anything in the real
context of television viewing, however, even if they do not want to be
disturbed. Since men and women recognize the different social roles, women are
forced to do something while watching Korean TV programs. On the one hand, they
reluctantly do something. On the other hand, they naturally do it. The
formulation of the different social roles between men and women compels women to
do the housework at any situations. In the practices of television viewing, of
course, there are some variations according to the types of the household, or
according to distinct relationships of each couple. However, these variations
do not deny the different social roles between men and women.
As revealed in the investigation of viewing styles, masculine power is also
evident in the analysis of power over a remote-control device. Most women in
our sample do not have the power to control a remote-control device. In the
examination of power over program choice, watching the Korean program is one of
the married-women's primary activities. They spend much time in the home while
their husbands go to school for studying. Married men allow their wives to
choose the program because they understand why their wives are enjoying Korean
drama as well as they do not have much time to watch it. The analysis of this
theme shows two significant contrasts between married couples and unmarried
couples. Unlike married couples, unmarried couples together rent videotape
considering each other's preference. However, the differences of program type
preferences ultimately allow unmarried couples to watch the program alone.
This research contributes to the ethnographic approaches of television viewing
by comparing two different types of groups. The analysis of the peculiar act of
Korean people, who are watching their own country's programs in a foreign
country, may expand the horizon of ethnographic researches of television
However, it cannot be said that this research has no problems. First of all,
there are language problems. Because the researchers interview Korean people in
the Korean language, even if the researchers try to transmit the way in which
Korean people behave and express their viewing videos in English, the
researchers are not sure of how much their way of watching Korean videos is
delivered. The selection of people who live in the America with citizenship
would have enriched our research. Since these people decide to stay and live in
U.S.A., they might produce somewhat different attitudes concerning television
viewing and its power relation between gender. If the researchers included some
Korean people who wanted to live dissociated from the Korean society in
Bloomington, this research would have more valuable data to expand the scope of
explaining the way of Korean people's pattern of viewing Korean videos.
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The Consumption of Korean Television Programs in U.S.A.:
Television Viewing, Gender, and Power
Seung Hyun Park
Department of Telecommunication
Submitted for presentation review to International Communication Division at the
annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication, Chicago, July 30 - August 2, 1997.
Seung Hyun Park
720 College Mall Road # K6
Bloomington, IN 47401
Phone (812) 323-0942
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
The Consumption of Korean Television Programs in U.S.A.:
Television Viewing, Gender, and Power
Television viewing needs the investigation of both viewing context and of
cultural factors which explain why some viewing patterns happen. Dealing with
the Korean people who live at a small campus-town in America and enjoy watching
their own country's programs, this study explores the relationship of gender to
domestic power revealed in television viewing. Major themes of the study are
the reason for watching the Korean program, styles of viewing, control over a
remote-control device, and control over the program choice.
March 31, 1997
Department of Communication
University of Northern Iowa
CAC 257, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614
Enclosed is the paper entitled "The Consumption of Korean Television Programs
in U.S.A.: Television Viewing, Gender, and Power," submitted by Seung Hyun Park
and Ho-kyu Lee from Department of Telecommunication of Indiana University at
Bloomington to International Communication Division of the Association of
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference.
We are looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much.
Seung Hyun Park
 . The researchers do not get the information about viewing hours, the
reasons for watching the Korean programs, and program choice from the couple of
the participant observation. We get the information about style of viewing,
control over a remote-control device, and demographic variables.
 . Bloomington has a store dealing with Korean supplies, which has the
videotapes copying the Korean television programs.