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South Korea

South Korea

Population: 51 million
Internet penetration: 97%
17th June 2024

South Korea’s news media is characterised by competitive public and private broadcasters, a newspaper sector struggling to adapt to digital change, and powerful Korean-owned portals that dominate the distribution of news online. But in recent years overall news consumption has been falling, especially with younger generations.

The economic slowdown has increased the pressure on South Korean media companies, with major advertisers such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics slashing ad spending by more than 30%. Many media outlets posted operating losses in 2023 and even those that recorded profits suffered a sharp drop in their earnings compared with the previous year. Increased video consumption via big online streaming platforms is another factor reducing attention for news programming and consequent revenues. Some broadcasters such as KBS (public media) and JTBC have looked to make savings by reducing staff and slashing production costs.

Newspapers have found it hard to develop new online business models beyond advertising, such as subscription and membership. Many have been tightening their belts while increasing the number of low-cost classified advertisements. News startups also confront a major crisis amid shrinking venture investments.

Compounding these problems are the public’s growing disinterest in the news as documented by Digital News Report data as well as regular surveys for the Korea Press Foundation (KPF). Latest KPF research shows consumption falling not only via legacy media such as TV News, but also through the major online portals such as Naver and Daum.1 In particular, the news consumption of those aged between 20 and 40 has shrunk across all media platforms including social media.2 When accessing news from portals, users are less likely to select a specific news organisation or identify a news provider. In the light of these shifting audience perceptions and behaviours, the media industry will need to explore new strategies and directions.

Korean news media have been looking to use artificial intelligence to boost efficiency and make content more relevant to audiences. Chosun Ilbo, a major daily, has developed a news-writing assistant program based on generative AI technology. Dong-a Ilbo, another daily, has developed an AI chatbot called ‘AskBiz’ specialising in business and management content. Meanwhile, media outlets are actively looking to protect news copyright and drive compensation, after big tech companies used publisher content to train their large language models (LLMs). The Korea Press Foundation and media-related associations are working together to jointly establish the ‘News Copyright Forum in the AI Era’ for discussing legal issues, calculating the value of news content, and establishing industry guidelines for generative AI.

Meanwhile levels of innovation at Korean media outlets remains stagnant. Amid slow digital transformation, journalists feel more fatigue from constant experiments and changes in labour practices. According to a survey by the Korea Press Foundation, when asked about whether they feel fatigue from digital innovation efforts, 38% of journalists answered ‘yes’ and 34% answered ‘moderately’. The fear of missing out on technology advances drives media firms to continue to experiment with new models, but the lack of a long-term strategy has resulted in many failed projects. The explosive growth of online articles and increasingly demanding newsroom workloads have compounded the sense of fatigue – potentially negatively affecting the way journalists respond to technological innovation in the future.

Meanwhile South Korean media companies came under fire for their sensationalised reporting on a movie star who took his own life in December 2023. The actor, who was under investigation for alleged drug use, received intense media attention for several months, with even details of private conversations that were not directly related to the drug probe being recklessly published. After his death, some 2,000 artists and cultural figures issued a statement critical of a sensationalist media culture that reports allegations without checking facts and reports on the private lives of celebrities, even when there is little or no public interest at stake. The media’s focus on gaining public attention has intensified since the shift to online platforms and many argue it has contributed to the rapid circulation of low-quality, sensational news. Increased social media use on platforms such as YouTube, used by 51% of our sample for news each week, have compounded the spread of doubts and allegations about the private lives of celebrities without verification.

Hyunwoo Lee and Youngheum Park
Senior Researchers, Korea Press Foundation (KPF)

Changing media

Online portals, led by Naver, account for the biggest share of news consumption in South Korea, followed by broadcasters, social media, and print media. Recently, a pattern of a decline in news usage has appeared across the media.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall



South Koreans' trust in the news remains generally low, with 31% of respondents trusting the news in 2024, a slight increase from the previous year. Among the brands we cover, Koreans tend to trust broadcast media such as MBC, YTN, JTBC, SBS, and KBS, while showing a relatively low level of trust toward newspapers such as Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Hankyoreh, and Kyunghyang Shinmun.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 64.87

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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1 Korea Press Foundation, ‘Media Users in Korea’, 2023.

2 From 2021 to 2023, the use of portal news decreased from 95.4% to 81.9% among those in their twenties and from 94.7% to 88.0% among those in their thirties. Ibid. p. 23.

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