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Cable to open market; censorship a problem.

The advent of cable in South Korea promises to be an economic windfall for the companies first to jump on the bandwagon. But the Korean government is not warming up to foreign investment in the yet-to-be-born cable operation. South Korea has only four TV stations and 90 per cent of the households have at least one set; thus there is a hugh as-of-yet untapped advertising market for cable. However, the government has been highly restrictive against U.S. and foreign investment, instead looking to protect Korean interests in the hotly contested market for licensing. Cable is expected to launch in January of 1995, according to Kwang Am Choi of MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation), with upwards of 20 channels.

When cable does launch, the basic system will be patterned like an American-style system with a variety of cable channels, according to Sung-Ryul Kim, executive director of KBS Media Enterprises. Said Kim, "KBS will get involved with five categories: news, sports, music, movies and children's progamming. The government announced very recently that they will issue the license to would-be-cablers very soon; thus the license will have approximately one and a half years of preparation to launch." KBS has roughly a 40 per cent share of the South Korean market on KBS2 and KBS1. One channel programs entertainment, while the other is public TV-oriented.

Satellite penetration in the country of 43 million, as in many of its neighbors, is essentially illegal. Kim reported that while many people have illegal dishes, it is rare for any of them to have the two meter or larger dish necessary to receive the ubiquitous STAR signal. What they do receive is the NHK signal which, according to Kim, is tolerated by the government a bit more leniently because it is a public TV offering. "The government says nothing because they do not consider the NHK broadcast a bad influence," Kim said. "But sooner or later they will make some kind of regulation." Korea is also planning the launch or its own satillite networks sometime in spring of 1995.

From a programming standpoint, Korea remains quite strickly censored. Only 15 per cent of the programming is imported, and mainly from American distributors, though the BBC and NHK have been making their presence known of late, as well as the French and Italians in the longform movie department. "Censorship is a very serious issue," Kim explained. "We cannot show straight nudity. We can't even show a nipple. A kiss with sexual meaning is no good. A kiss is okay, as long as it does not have any sexual interpretation." Foreign programming is purchased and then edited down to meet the Korean censorship standards.

Local production of soup operas is the hot ticket. Korea started producing its own animation series in 1987. Kim pointed out that their product was very much accepted by the European community because of the high production quality. KBS has coproduced 65 half hours of the animated series Widget with U.S.-based company Zodiac and is now developing another 26 half hours called Power Animals, also with Zodiac. Additionally, they have teamed up with Saban, and are co-producing a documentary with NHK, Japan. "We definitely have an interest in coproducing animation and documentaries," Kim reported. "We are also thinking about some potential dramas, as well. By the end of the century southeast Asian countries will all have developed new media delivery systems, including cable and satilite. So the demand for our programs is going to get bigger and bigger."
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Title Annotation:South Korea
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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