Korean Broadcasting System

Last updated

Korean Broadcasting System
Native name
Revised Romanization Han-guk Bangsong Gongsa
McCune–Reischauer Han'guk Pangsong Kongsa
Type Statutory corporation
Industry Broadcasting
  • Kyeongseong/Keijō Broadcasting Station (1927–1932)
  • Chōsen Broadcasting Corporation (1932–1945)
  • 16 February 1927;96 years ago (1927-02-16) (as Kyeongseong/Keijō Broadcasting Station) (Radio)
  • May 1956;67 years ago (1956-05) (television)
  • 3 March 1973;50 years ago (1973-03-03) (as Public Broadcasting organization)
FounderGovernor-General of Korea
South Korea
Area served
Key people
Vacant (President and CEO)
Owner Government of South Korea
Number of employees
4,701 (As of 1 June 2020)
Website Corporation website

The Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) (Korean : 한국방송공사; Hanja : 韓國放送公社; RR : Han-guk Bangsong Gongsa; MR : Han'guk Pangsong Kongsa) is the national broadcaster of South Korea. Founded in 1927, it is one of the leading South Korean television and radio broadcasters.


The KBS operates seven radio networks, ten television channels, and multiple Internet-exclusive services. Its flagship terrestrial television stations KBS1 broadcasts on channel 9, while KBS1 sister channel KBS2, an entertainment oriented network, broadcasts on channel 7. KBS also operates the international service KBS World, which provides television, radio, and online services in twelve different languages.


Early radio broadcasts

KBS headquarters in Seoul Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) hangugbangsonggongsa (5481447848).jpg
KBS headquarters in Seoul

The KBS began as Gyeongseong Broadcasting Station (경성방송국, 京城放送局) with call sign JODK, established by the Governor-General of Korea on 16 February 1927. [1] It became the Chōsen Broadcasting Corporation (Japanese: 朝鮮放送協會, Hepburn: Chōsen Hōsō Kyōkai, RR: Joseon Bangsong Hyeophoe) in 1932. After Korea was liberated from Japanese rule at the end of World War II, this second radio station started using the call sign HLKA in 1947 after the US-occupied Korea was granted the ITU prefix HL. After doing a national broadcast, the radio was renamed Seoul Central Broadcasting Station in 1948.

1950s–1960s – Move into television

Television broadcasts in South Korea began on 12 May 1956 with the first television station HLKZ-TV. After financial difficulties, it was acquired by KBS in 1961.

1970s – Expansion

KBS station status changed from government to broadcasting station on 3 March 1973. Construction of KBS headquarters in Yeouido started in 1976. In 1979 KBS radio began broadcasting on the FM band with the launch of KBS Stereo (now KBS 1FM). Colour television began that year.

1980s – Advertising started after controversial merger

KBS began accepting advertising in 1980, differing from the norm of advert-free broadcasting by public broadcasters, after the forced merger of several private broadcasters into KBS by the military government of Chun Doo-hwan (see Controversies). [2]

1990s – Spinoff of EBS

Journalists protest in front of the KBS headquarters in April 1990 Protest by journalists 1990-04-17.png
Journalists protest in front of the KBS headquarters in April 1990

In 1981, KBS launched KBS 3TV and Educational FM and on 27 December 1990, the channels split from KBS to form the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS).

After a revision of the television licensing fee system in 1994, 1TV and Radio1 stopped broadcasting commercials.


After first broadcasting HD programmes in 2001, KBS completely transferred to digital broadcasting in 2012.

50th anniversary logo of its founding as public broadcasting organization. KBS 50 Years logo.svg
50th anniversary logo of its founding as public broadcasting organization.

On 3 March 2013, computer shutdowns hit South Korean television stations including the KBS. [3] The South Korean government asserted a North Korean link in the March cyberattacks, which has been denied by Pyongyang. [4]

In 2013, KBS World Radio commemorated its 60th anniversary, and KBS World TV celebrated 10 years of its foundation.

In 2014, KBS World 24 was launched, mainly for Koreans abroad.

In 2015, KBS was honored to have its archives of the KBS Special Live Broadcast, Finding Dispersed Families, inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This makes KBS only the world's second broadcaster to have a broadcast programme on the prestigious list.

The KBS network is dedicated to deliver the exclusive Special Live Broadcast, Finding Dispersed Families, via its primary channel, KBS1. KBS News served as the program's producer. The program made its premiere telecast on 10:15 pm KST on 30 June 1983. After more than 6 months, the special live programme ended at 4 am on 14 November 1983. This marks a total duration of 453 hours and 45 minutes of live broadcast over the period of 138 days, aired nationwide on KBS1. The whole live broadcast was recorded. The KBS's archives of Special Live Broadcast, Finding Dispersed Families include; 463 videotapes of the original recordings, and many kinds of associated materials, generated in the course of the extraordinary broadcast, such as the posters carrying the participating dispersed family members' capsule stories, cue sheets, programming schedules, radio recording materials, and related photographs. A total of 20,522 such assorted materials have been preserved in the archives. [5] The program was the biggest public affairs program ever produced by KBS in the decade and was the first to tackle the issue of families separated because of the long Korean War (1950–1953), which garnered even international coverage.

In 2017, KBS launched the world's first terrestrial UHD broadcasting service.

In June 2018, KBS led the operation of the IBC (International Broadcasting Centre) inside the KINTEX (Korea International Exhibition Center), located in Goyang City, as Host Broadcaster for the April 2018 inter-Korean summit. [6] During the summit, KBS successfully delivered all the moments associated with the historic summit for more than 3,000 local and overseas media representatives, gathered at the IBC. Throughout the day of the summit, KBS delivered live coverage and the latest developments of the event through its continuous special news bulletins. Also, its prime-time news programmes, KBS News 9 and KBS Newsline provided audiences with highlights and implications of the historic summit through comprehensive and analytical reports. Also, KBS World TV delivered Live Coverage of April 2018 Inter-Korean summit with English subtitles for its audiences across 117 countries worldwide.

In May 2019, as the public service broadcaster in South Korea, KBS undertook a major reform in its Disaster Broadcast System in order to provide exclusive emergency services for people in the country in times of emergency. To be headed by President and CEO of KBS, the renewed system will allow the use of maximum resources of the organization under emergency circumstances. Under the reform, KBS will focus on; swift and efficient emergency broadcast and coverage; to deliver essential information in innovative ways with the ultimate aim to minimise losses and damages; to strengthen its digital platforms to better serve wide-ranging audience groups. In particular, KBS signed contracts with nine sign language interpreters in an effort to enhance broadcast services for audiences with disabilities. In addition, KBS is committed to improve its English subtitle services for people from overseas.


KBS Cool FM Radio studios KBS 2FM studio-Seoul.jpg
KBS Cool FM Radio studios
KBS regional broadcasting station in Changwon KBS Changwon, 2015-01-03.jpg
KBS regional broadcasting station in Changwon

KBS is a public corporation (공사, 公社) funded by the South Korean government and license fees, but is managed independently. As part of the Constitution, the president of KBS is chosen by the President of South Korea, after being recommended by its board of directors. Political parties in South Korea also have the right to name members of the KBS board of directors.

Because of this system, which gives politicians effective control over choosing the president of KBS, as well as its board of directors, people who are critical of the system cite political intervention in KBS's governance as reason for revising the current system of recruiting.

In order to uphold and defend independence, KBS, since 2018, created a 'Public Advisory Group', as part of the selection process of new KBS President and CEO. The new President and CEO of KBS is recommended by the KBS Board of Governors, once the selection process by the Group is completed. The Group examines Presidential candidates in the form of a presentation, a panel discussion, and an interview. The new President and CEO of KBS will finally be appointed by the President of Republic of Korea, after going through the mandatory parliamentary audit by the National Assembly.

Around 49% of KBS's revenue comes from a mandatory television licence fee of 2,500 won, with another 18.7% coming from commercial advertisement sales. [7]

In addition to 18 regional stations and 12 overseas branches, there are eight subsidiary companies such as KBSN, KBS Business and KBS Media, which manage KBS content.


1Hong Kyung-moFebruary 1973February 1979
3 Choi Se-kyung  [ ko ]February 1979July 1980
4Lee Won-hongJuly 1980February 1985
6Park Hyun-taeFebruary 1985August 1986
7Jung Koo-hoAugust 1986November 1988
8 Seo Young-hoon  [ ko ]November 1988March 1990
9 Seo Ki-won  [ ko ]April 1990March 1993
10 Hong Doo-pyo  [ ko ]March 1993April 1998
12 Park Kwon-sang  [ ko ]20 April 199810 March 2003
14Seo Dong-koo22 March 20032 April 2003
15 Jung Yeon-joo  [ ko ]28 April 200311 August 2008Dismissed
18 Lee Byung-soon  [ ko ]28 August 200823 November 2009
19 Kim In-kyoo  [ ko ]24 November 200923 November 2012
20 Kil Hwan-young  [ ko ]23 November 201210 June 2014Dismissed after strike
21 Jo Dae-hyun  [ ko ]28 July 201423 November 2015
22 Ko Dae-young  [ ko ]24 November 201523 January 2018Dismissed after strike
23 Yang Seung-dong 9 April 201823 November 2018
2424 November 20189 December 2021
25 Kim Eui-chul  [ ko ]10 December 202112 September 2023Dismissed [8]


Terrestrial television

KBS 1 logo.svg
KBS 2 logo.svg
keibieseu nyuseu di.svg

While KBS1 and KBS2 phased out analogue services on 31 December 2012 as part of the switchover to digital television in South Korea, it would appear that KBS1 and KBS2 is still unofficially broadcast in analog via UHF, presumably nearby the DMZ, albeit using the SECAM D/K standard. [11]

Cable and satellite television

These six channels are carried by cable and satellite operators in South Korea. There are 100+ cable operators in South Korea, and Skylife is the sole satellite television service provider. These channels are managed and operated by KBS N, a subsidiary company of KBS.

KBS World

KBS World (2009).svg

KBS World is the international television and radio service of KBS. It was officially launched on 1 July 2003. It is broadcast on a 24-hour schedule with programs including news, sports, television dramas, entertainment, and children's. KBS World television is broadcast locally and around the world. As of July 2007, around 65% of its programs are broadcast with English subtitles, it is available in 32 countries, and reportedly more than 40 million households around the world can access KBS World.[ citation needed ] It has two overseas subsidiaries: KBS America and KBS Japan. KBS Japan is independently operated by a KBS subsidiary in Japan, and most programs are provided with Japanese subtitles.

KBS World Television is a television channel that mainly broadcasts programs commissioned for KBS's 2 terrestrial networks: KBS1 and KBS2. KBS World television is distributed over several international communication and broadcasting satellites such as IS-19, IS-20, IS-21, Measat 3, Apstar 6 & 7, Eutelsat Hotbird 13A, Galaxy 11, 18 & 23, Badr 6, Vinasat 1, Palapa D, SES 7, Telkom 1, Thaicom 5, EchoStar 15, Anik F3. Local cable and/or satellite operators receive the signal from one of these satellite and carry the signal to end subscribers of their own networks. KBS doesn't allow individual viewers to receive the signal from IS-19, IS-20, IS-21, Measat 3, Asiasat 5, and Galaxy 18. The signal from Badr 6 and Eutelsat Hotbird 13A is Free-to-Air.

KBS World TV commenced its service via YouTube in 2007. Its YouTube subscriber count reached 10 million in May 2019 and recorded 13.5 million in July 2020. KBS World TV is also available on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LINE. Its social media surpassed 20 million subscribers in April 2020.

KBS Korea (previously KBS World 24), a spin-off channel of KBS World, is targeting at Koreans living overseas.



Foreign partners


CountryPublic television
Argentina Radio y Televisión Argentina
Bolivia Bolivia TV
Brazil Empresa Brasil de Comunicação
Canada Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Chile Televisión Nacional de Chile
Colombia RTVC Sistema de Medios Públicos
Costa Rica Trece Costa Rica Televisión
Cuba Cuban Institute of Radio and Television
Dominican Republic Corporación Estatal de Radio y Televisión
Ecuador Medios Públicos EP
El Salvador TVES (El Salvador)
Honduras Televisión Nacional de Honduras
Mexico Sistema Público de Radiodifusión del Estado Mexicano
Nicaragua Sistema Nacional de Televisión
Paraguay Paraguay TV
Peru Instituto Nacional de Radio y Televisión del Perú
United States American Broadcasting Company, PBS
Uruguay Televisión Nacional Uruguay and TV Ciudad
Venezuela Bolivarian Communication and Information System


CountryPublic television
Belgium Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie
Finland Yle
France France Televisions
Germany ARD
Italy Radiotelevisione Italiana
Netherlands Nederlandse Publieke Omroep
Norway Norsk Rikskringkasting
Poland Telewizja Polska
Portugal Rádio e Televisão de Portugal
Russia VGTRK
Spain Televisión Española
Sweden Sveriges Television
Turkey Turkish Radio and Television Corporation
Ukraine Suspilne Movlennia
United Kingdom BBC


CountryPublic television
Cambodia National Television of Kampuchea
China China Central Television
Hong Kong RTHK
India Doordarshan
Indonesia Televisi Republik Indonesia
Japan Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai
Malaysia Radio Televisyen Malaysia
Mongolia Mongolian National Broadcaster
Philippines Presidential Communications Office
Thailand Thai PBS
Taiwan Public Television Service
Vietnam VTV


CountryPublic television
Australia Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Special Broadcasting Service
New Zealand Television New Zealand

Operational status


KBS carried out a large-scale organizational reform on 1 March 2019. The focus of the reform is to; further strengthen the KBS's capabilities of content creation; enhance the organization's digital work flow; and improve audience services. As part of the new strategy, KBS created Content Production 2 Division, a new integral body, responsible for a highly efficient operation of production, marketing, as well as content businesses. The new division ultimately aims to bring outstanding dramas and entertainment programming by boosting creative nature of the production function, and minimizing its decision-making process. [15]

The new reform strategy introduced Public Service Media Strategy team under Strategy and Planning Division. Public Service Media Strategy is mainly responsible for developing KBS's digital strategies for different audiences to enjoy KBS content via assorted digital media platforms. The reform brought changes in Programming Division as Digital Media department has further expanded its roles under the division. Digital News department attached to News and Sports Division has also strengthened its functions in line with the recent reform initiative. Another significant change in the reform is that new 'Audience Relations Center' has become an executive department, to be operated directly by KBS President and CEO. The Audience Relations Center will dedicate its resources to further enhance audience services, and create more opportunities for audiences to take part in various initiatives developed by KBS. And Local Stations Management has been reorganized to be supervised under KBS Executive Vice President, as KBS has a plan to build a regional broadcasting system in response to a growing demand for greater regional autonomy.


KBS, as one of South Korea's oldest broadcasters, had more controversies than SBS and MBC. It also earned nicknames such as Soonkyu Bangsong and The Department of Last Resort.

1980 – Forced merger of KBS with private broadcasters

During the Chun Doo-hwan regime of the eighties, the president passed a law to force several public broadcasters to merge with the public-run KBS. After these broadcasters had shown news stories against Chun, he used this law to stifle their criticism of him. It included:

Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) was also affected. MBC was, at first, a federation of 20 loosely affiliated member stations located in various parts of South Korea. Although they shared much of their programming, each member station was privately owned. After the consolidation, however, affiliates were forced to give up a majority of shares to the MBC based in Seoul. MBC Seoul, in turn, was forced to give up 65% of its shares to KBS. [16]


  • TBC television became KBS2, and TBC Radio was split into two and became KBS 2FM and KBS Radio 3.
  • DBS became the now-defunct KBS Radio Seoul. The frequency is now used by SBS Love FM.
  • SBC became KBS Gunsan, [17] now known as KBS Radio 3 Jeonju
  • VOC became KBS Radio 3 Gwangju.
  • Hanguk-FM became KBS-Daegu-FM.

In 2009, president Lee Myung-bak said that the law was unconstitutional, and in 2011 TBC and DBS were revived as JTBC and Channel A, respectively.

2002 – KBS 2FM advertisement scandal

KBS 2FM From 1980 until 2002 was prohibited to air commercial advertisements but in 2002 commercial advertisements resumed airing on KBS 2FM. The result KBS Local FM (a radio station owned by KBS used to air selected programs of KBS 1FM and KBS 2FM through a cross-broadcast schedule nationally) instead carried KBS 1FM programs even though only one KBS 2FM program Good Morning Pops where aired due to that the said program is prohibited to air advertisements excluding those of KOBACO (Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation). However, after 15 years since the abolishment of national broadcasts Park Myeong-su's Radio Show is aired on local KBS Happy FM stations in Busan, Changwon, Cheongju, Daejeon and Jeju starting April 2016 (and in June 2019 the program is also aired in the Gangwon-do region) this was due to its popularity and being consistently viral in internet search engines and on SNS (social media sites) this development marked the resumption of Cool FM's national broadcasts this time using the Local Happy FM network in the provinces, afterwards KBS Gayo Plaza (currently presented by Lee Eun-ji) is aired in all Local Happy FM stations starting September 2016 for the same reasons, Good Morning Pops which was aired on the Local FM stations moved to Local Happy FM stations in February 2017 with this development the show is no longer aired on Local FM stations, on August 31, 2020, Kim Do-yeon's Fresh Morning also started national broadcast on all Local Happy FM stations and finally Lee Geum-hee's A good day to love also aired in selected Local Happy FM stations in Gangwon-do, Gwangju and Jeju due to its high ratings starting on August 2, 2021.

2008~2009 – 1 Night 2 Days profanity and smoking

2011 – Wiretapping scandal at TV license fee meeting

In 2011, Sohn Hak-kyu, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, accused KBS of wiretapping the party's closed-door meeting on TV subscription charges. [18]

Sohn said, "We believe the firm bugged the meeting to secure information about our party's handling of the TV subscription policy. KBS should admit that it resorted to the deplorable method of gathering information."[ citation needed ]

The ruling Grand National Party initially sought to put a bill concerning the TV subscription charge to a vote. However, it failed to do so amid strong opposition from the Democrats.

The National Assembly's subcommittee on culture, tourism, broadcasting and communication, was scheduled to deliberate on 28 June 2011, but the meeting was cancelled due to the Democrats' protest.

The scandal erupted on 23 June when Han Sun-kyo, chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee, criticized the Democrats' opposition to increasing the TV subscription charge during a subcommittee meeting.

The GNP lawmakers eventually approved a bill raising the charge by 1,000 won to 3,500 won at a subcommittee meeting in the absence of Democrat lawmakers. That led to a Democrat boycott of a June extraordinary parliamentary session for half a day on 21 June 2011.

2011 – Praising Chinilpa

Bak Han-yong (박한용), head of the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities, criticized KBS for censoring negative remarks from a documentary about Chinilpa individuals, and Rhee Syngman, who had pardoned them. [19] This includes the Chinilpa Paik Sun-yup. [20]

2012 – KBS2 Carriage dispute

On 16 January 2012, a dispute broke out between KBS and the Korea Cable TV Association (KCTA) over carriage fees. KCTA sought to reduce fees from major national networks for carrying their feeds through subscription providers. KBS had demanded to charge 280 won per subscriber, while the TV providers limited their offer to 100 won per subscription. Negotiations reached a standstill, and so the providers decided to stop carrying KBS2 nationwide starting from 3:00 p.m. (KST) on that same day. [21] Due to loss in viewership, KBS2 experienced major decline in their ratings, majorly affecting shows like Brain at the time. [22] Following the blackout, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has ordered the TV providers to resume distributing the channel or face a hefty fine. They initially refused, but on 17 January, they agreed to resume the channel's carriage after 28 hours. [23]

2012 – KBS journalists strikes and Reset KBS News 9

The journalists working for KBS (along with MBC, SBS and YTN) have protested against the biased journalism practices that favor the Lee Myung-bak government. [24] [25] [26] The new union for KBS headed by Kim Hyeon-seok released a video clip "Reset KBS News 9" (리셋 KBS 뉴스9) on the internet that discusses the Prime Minister's Office Civilian Surveillance Incident and the controversial money-spending on renovating President Lee Myung-bak's alleged birth house on 13 March 2012. [27]

2013 – You Are The Best! name controversy

Global Youth League DN filed an injunction at Seoul Central District Court against KBS for using the name "Lee Soon-shin" in the title of the drama. The injunction requested KBS to (1) immediately stop the broadcast, (2) remove "Lee Soon-shin" from the title, and (3) change the name of one of its characters. The group claimed that historical figure Lee Soon-shin (or Yi Sun-sin), an admiral famed for his victories against the Japanese Navy in the Imjin War during the Joseon Dynasty, is an official national symbol whose status will "deteriorate" when associated with the "weak and clumsy" protagonist that lead actress IU plays. [28] [29] [30] [31] KBS and production company AStory responded that they had no plans of changing the title or character name. Instead, they altered the original drama poster where several cast members are sitting on a pile of 100 won coins that have an image of Admiral Yi, by digitally replacing the coins with a plain gold platform. [32] [33]

2014~2015 – The Return of Superman controversies

2014 – 1st KBS strike against pro-government bias of its president

In early May 2014, Gil Hwan-young removed the KBS news chief after alleged improper remarks over the sinking of the ferry Sewol. The chief then accused Gil of interference with news editing, with an alleged pro-government bias.

After the board postponed a decision on whether or not to dismiss Gil, two of the broadcaster's largest unions went on strike.

As a result of the boycott, most of the broadcaster's news output was affected. The hour-long KBS News 9 ran for just 20 minutes, and during local elections on 4 June 2014, KBS was unable to send reporters to interview candidates.

The strike ended after the board of directors voted to dismiss Gil. The board passed a motion on 5 June 2014 demanding the discharge of President Gil. The majority vote decision was sent to be approved by the country's president Park Geun-hye, who has the power to appoint the broadcaster's head. [44] [45] [46]

2017 – 2nd KBS strike against pro-government bias of its president

In August 2017, KBS union decided to hold a strike, which began on 4 September, due to allegedly influencing news coverage to be in favor of former president Park Geun-hye's administration. [47] [ unreliable source? ] [48] [ unreliable source? ] As a result of the boycott, there has been a severe reduction in the airing of KBS news programs, culture programs, radio shows, and variety shows due to most staff members taking part in the strike. [49] During its strike, the 2017 KBS Entertainment Awards was cancelled. [50] [ unreliable source? ] After 141 days, the strike was over when the broadcasting company's board of directors approved the dismissal of KBS president Ko Dae-young. [51] [52]

See also

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37°31′31″N126°54′59″E / 37.52538°N 126.916361°E / 37.52538; 126.916361