Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Padovani, Cinzia


This dissertation investigates the nature of Korean media giants among members of Asian media conglomerates in the era of media marketization. Since the 1980s, each state in Asia has adopted neoliberal media laws and policies that have made its media systems more market-driven. This neoliberal media reform led to the restructuring of media systems from state-controlled systems to profit-oriented ones and facilitating the emergence of Asian media conglomerates. However, scholarship on the nature of Asian media giants has been sparse in critical media studies. Thus, I conduct a case study to explore the nature of Asian media giants with a focus on the interplay between media ownership and media markets in order to determine the major beneficiaries of Asian media marketization. I focus on the three Korean media conglomerates of Samsung, CJ and JoongAng Ilbo groups during the period from 1998 to 2012 when the Korean state applied the neoliberal media mode to the Korean media systems. Utilizing the theoretical approach of political economy of communication, I examine three points: (1) the relationship between the era of neoliberal media and the structures of four media markets (e.g., advertising, daily newspaper, cable television and film); (2) the interconnections among media expansions, media ownership and informal ties (e.g., blood and marriage ties); and (3) the relationship between the changed structures of those four media markets and corporate censorship of the three chaebol groups. To address these questions, I used both institutional and corporate profiling techniques and then analyzed both governmental and secondary documents, including those covering structures of media markets, media ownership, boards of directors, media expansions and emergent issues in the information and entertainment markets. Consequently, my analysis finds that neoliberal media laws and policies led to forming centralized market structures controlled by chaebol groups with connections to Western media conglomerates and/or foreign capital. Also, I find that the Lee family members used family connections to expand their media businesses and control multiple media operations, thereby becoming the media emperor in Korea. Finally, my analysis shows that a media-oriented ideology has rarely guaranteed free competition among market players but has instead led to increasing the market polarization between a few market controllers and many independent media companies. In other words, my study indicates that the neoliberal media mode allowed family capitalists in Korea with foreign capital to control the structures of media markets.




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