K-Culture: Korean Broadcasting Networks

International Korean drama fans have no qualms on which TV channel will broadcast a series they would want to watch as they mostly sourced it from different online streaming sites.

However, this non-Korean with a curious mind writer still want to know more about the difference between these media brands familiar to all drama lovers. Kaja?

Maknae’s note: This article will not delve into the political aspect of the South Korean broadcasting landscape. It would just mainly focus on basic facts curious K-drama fans would be interested in. This will also not include Educational Broadcasting System (EBS), which is a children’s educational television and radio network.

The Big Three

Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)
Launching Date: October 1, 1961 (KBS1) and December 1, 1980 (KBS2)
Owners: Publicly-funded and independently run.


  • Like the ABC in Australia and BBC in the United Kingdom, KBS is funded by the South Korean government but managed independently. The Korean Broadcasting Commission (KBC) nominates members of its highest decision-making body, the Board of Governors. The South Korean President then appoints the president and chief executive officer of KBS after being nominated by the board.
  • The present KBS is a result of the forced merger of the Tongyang Broadcasting Corporation (former body of JTBC) to KBS in 1980.
  • KBS1 airs news and sports while KBS2 predominantly airs entertainment and drama programs. Unlike, KBS1, KBS2 accepts commercial advertisements.

Popular Dramas:

  • First Love (1996) starring Bae Yong-joon, Choi Soo-jong and Lee Seung-yeon.
  • Full House (2004) starring Rain and Song Hye-kyo.
  • Boys Over Flowers (2009) starring Lee Min-ho and Ko Hye-sun.

Recent Dramas: Are You Human Too?, Suits, andRadio Romance

Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
Launching Date: August 1, 1969
Owners: Commercial broadcasting, The Foundation of Broadcast Culture, The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation


  • MBC started as the first non-governmental commercial broadcaster in Korea. However, it is still considered a public broadcaster because the majority of its stock is owned by the Foundation of Broadcast Culture, an organization operated entirely from government fund.
  • MBC drama What Is Love All About? is considered the first Korean drama successfully aired overseas. It was aired by Chinese channel CCTV in 1997 and had numerous reruns because of enormous demands from fans.

Popular Dramas:

  • Dae Jang Geum (2003-2004) starring Lee Young-ae.
  • Goong (2006) starring starring Yoon Eun-hye, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Jeong-hoon and Song Ji-hyo, and
  • My Name is Kim Sam-soon (2005) starring Kim Sun-a and Hyun Bin.

Recent Dramas: The Great Seducer, Come and Hug Me, andI’m Not a Robot

Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)
Launching Date: March 20, 1991
Owners: SBS Media Holdings


  • In 1987, the South Korean Government allowed the creation of a second commercial station in Seoul on November 14, 1990.
  • The 1995 series Sandglass is considered the breakout drama for SBS.

Popular Dramas:

  • Stairway to Heaven (2003) starring Choi Ji-woo, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Tae-hee, and Shin Hyun-joon.
  • Temptation of Wife (2008) starring Jang Seo-hee, Byun Woo-min, Kim Seo-hyung and Lee Jae Hwang.
  • My Love from the Star (2013-2014) starring Jun Ji-hyun, Kim Soo-hyun, Park Hae-jin and Yoo In-na.

Recent Dramas: Wok of Love, The Undateables, andSecret Mother

The Rise of the Cable Channels

The South Korean television industry had operated with only two public broadcasting companies, KBS and MBC, until 1991. It was only until the introduction of the systematically planned cable television, commonly known as the General Cable Television (GCT) that cable networks enter the industry. Cable television in South Korea has been developed in accordance with the government’s political interest, unlike the U.S. cable television system which emerged from consumer’s demand. The development of cable television industry in South Korea meant the introduction of new channels and competition in contents. Here are some cable networks familiar to international fans.

tvN (Total Variety Network)
Launching Date: October 9, 2006
Owners: CJ E&M
Fact: tvN’s highest-rated TV series are Reply 1988 and Goblin.

Recent Dramas: About Time, Why Secretary Kim, and Lawless Lawyer

Launching Date: December 1, 2011
Owners: The Joongang Group, DY Asset, JoongAng Ilbo, TV Asahi, Turner Asia Pacific Venture
Fact: The JoongAng Ilbo, which used to be a part of the Samsung Group, had owned a TV station before.

Recent Dramas: Miss Hammurabi, Sketch, and Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food

OCN (Orion Cinema Network)
Launching Date: July 1, 1999
Owners: CJ E&M Broadcasting Group
Fact: OCN is South Korea’s number one movie channel.

Recent Dramas: That Man Oh Soo, Mistress, and Children of a Lesser God

Regardless of where the show was aired, K-drama fans just want to sit back and enjoy a good story. See you in my next feature!

References (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)

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