Control of Mass-Media in Japan and Korea

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When broadcasting began in the post war era in Japan and Korea the two countries were vastly different in national resources and characteristics. Japan was one of the most established democratic nations in the region and became one of the world's economic powerhouses. On the other hand Korea was recovering from war and civil unrest under a militaristic authoritarian government. Even though these large differences existed, both Japan and Korea similarly deterred the media’s role as a watchdog of government and created an environment in which the media was dependent on the government for its operation. In order to illustrate this statement I would like to explore the similarities between these two countries which are: lack of diversity in views and opinions across the media, and existence of government control. Furthermore, I would like to highlight the differences in method of control which are: the indirect method in which Japanese government instigated ‘self-censorship’, and how the Korean government contrastingly clinged to direct control of media and heavy-handed censorship. These differences will be outlined through comparison of Japan and Korea in their media guidance system and restructuring of broadcasting. This essay will focus on broadcasting media from the post-war era to the fall of authoritarian government in Korea, as this outlet held vast influence at the time.

Traditionally, in western notion the role of mass media has been conceived in terms of informing the electorate on public issues, enlarging the base of participation in the political process and watching over government behaviour.# However the messages that were disseminated by Japanese and Korean media in the post-war era did not include many opinions or commentary regarding political issues. Kwak described the situation of Korean media as ‘politicisation of news content which almost completely ignored the opinions’.# Similarly in Japan, although press freedom was guaranteed, Sugiyama comments on Japanese media as “(Media outlets) refrain from aggressively expressing opinions. This results in the affinity of contents”.# The above statement suggests that the western notion of journalism was discouraged and media’s role as a ‘watchdog’ did not develop in Japan and Korea.

For both Japan and Korea, departure of occupational government gave an opportunity for the state to take control of the media. Japan experienced American occupational control of media from 1945-1952 and Korea experienced it during the Japanese occupation period from 1910-1945, as well as American occupation from 1945-1948. When Japan and Korea regained sovereignty in July 1952 and August 1953 respectively, both countries introduced a new system of media governance that enabled the state to coerce media outlets to favour the government. In Japan, the independent regulatory committee of broadcasting, Radio Regulatory Commission (RRC), which was established by allied forces was dissolved by Japanese government in July 1952. American occupational government's aim to deter Japanese government from 'influencing or controlling' the media by establishing independent regulator was undermined by this decision.# Thereafter, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications took control of broadcasting regulation. Luther and Boyd denotes that this action caused “...a form of codependency between governmental officials and broadcast personnel developed to the point of often discouraging broadcasters from being overly critical of governmental actions”.# Similarly in Korea, through strict licensing policy, censorship and violence, the authoritarian government gained power to disseminate propaganda to retain their legitimacy. As Kim and Shin states “Structural changes in the Korean press and its orientations have been unilaterally defined by the dominant political power”. # Thus similarly with Japan, Korean government took a pivotal role in guiding...
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