Korean Broadcasting System

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 public broadcaster of South Korea. It was founded in 1927, and operates radio, television, and online services, being one of the biggest South Korean television networks.

Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)
Native name
Revised RomanizationHan-guk Bangsong Gongsa
McCune–ReischauerHan'guk Pangsong Kongsa
IndustryMass media
PredecessorKyeongseong Broadcasting Corporation
  • 16 February 1927 (1927-02-16) (as Kyeongseong Broadcasting Corporation) (Radio)
  • December 1961 (television)
  • 3 March 1973 (1973-03-03) (as Public Broadcasting organization)
South Korea
Area served
Key people
choi girang, President
OwnerIndependent (publicly owned)
Number of employees
5,294 (As of 1 January 2017)
  • KBS Media
  • KBS Art Vision
  • KBS Business
  • KBS N
  • KBS i (closed in 2011)
  • E-KBS
  • KBS America
  • KBS Japan
WebsiteCorporation website


Beginnings in radio

KBS began as Kyeongseong Broadcasting Corporation (JODK, 경성방송국, 京城放送局) and was established by the Governor-General of Korea on 16 February 1927. This second radio station started using the call sign HLKA in 1947 after the Republic of Korea got the call sign HL of the International Telecommunication Union. 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. It was sold to KBS in 1961.

1970s - Expansion

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

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).[1]

1990s - Spinoff of EBS

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, KBS1 stopped broadcasting commercials.


In March 2013, computer shutdowns hit South Korean television stations including the KBS.[2] The South Korean government asserted a North Korean link in the March cyberattacks, which has been denied by Pyongyang.[3]


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.

Around 37.8% of KBS' revenue comes from a mandatory television licence fee of 2,200 won, with another 47.6% coming from commercial advertisement sales.[4]

KBS' international output such as KBS World, as well as specialised services such as KBS Radio 3 for the disabled, receive public funding from the South Korean government.


1 Hong Kyung-mo February 1973 February 1979 N/A
3 Choi Se-kyung February 1979 July 1980
4 Lee Won-hong July 1980 February 1985
6 Park Hyun-tae February 1985 August 1986
7 Jung Koo-ho August 1986 November 1988
8 Seo Young-hoon November 1988 March 1990
9 Seo Ki-won April 1990 March 1993
10 Hong Doo-pyo March 1993 April 1998
12 Park Kwon-sang 20 April 1998 10 March 2003
14 Seo Dong-koo 22 March 2003 2 April 2003
15 Jung Yeon-joo 28 April 2003 11 August 2008 Dismissed
18 Lee Byung-soon 28 August 2008 23 November 2009 N/A
19 Kim In-kyoo 24 November 2009 23 November 2012
20 Kil Hwan-young 23 November 2012 10 June 2014 Dismissed after strike
21 Jo Dae-hyun 28 July 2014 23 November 2015 N/A
22 Ko Dae-young 24 November 2015 23 January 2018 Dismissed after strike
23 Yang Sung-dong 9 April 2018 31 December 2019 N/A
broadcasting press jeon chang um 1 January 2020 2 January 2020 Dismissed after strike
25 choi girang 12 January 2020 Incumbent N/A


Terrestrial television

  • KBS1 - KBS' flagship channel, it broadcasts news and current affairs, education, sports, and culture. It launched in 1961 as HLKA-TV and is solely funded by the license fee, airing commercial-free. It is available nationally on channel 9, broadcasting via digital terrestrial television. KBS1 also airs public information films and minor entertainment programming, but the majority of which is on KBS2.[5]
  • KBS2 - KBS' entertainment and drama channel, it was launched in 1980 as a replacement for the Tongyang Broadcasting Corporation, which was controversially merged with KBS. It is available on digital channel 7 via digital terrestrial television. KBS2 also airs public information films and less news and current affairs programming, but the majority of which is on KBS1.[5]
  • KBS UHD - The Ultra High Definition channel. Airs music videos and re-runs of dramas. It is on national terrestrial digital channel 66.[6]

KBS1 and KBS2 phased out analogue services on 31 December 2012 as part of the switchover to digital television.

Cable and satellite television

  • KBS N Life - A culture and drama channel, launched in 1995 as KBS Satellite 2. It was renamed as KBS Korea in 2002, renamed as KBS Prime in 2006 before becoming N Life.
  • KBS Drama - formerly KBS Sky Drama, launched in 2002
  • KBS N Sports - formerly KBS Sports/KBS Sky Sports, launched in 2002
  • KBS Joy - a comedy and quiz show channel that was launched in 2006
  • KBS Kids - the children's channel, launched in 2012[7]
  • KBS W - a channel aimed at a female audience, launched in 2013[8]
  • KBS - K Picture Media - distribution paid cartoons online[5]

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 is the international television and radio service of KBS. It 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. 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' 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 viewer 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 Radio 1 (711 kHz AM/97.3 MHz FM KBS Radio Seoul) - news, current affairs, drama, documentary and culture. Launched in 1927 as Kyeongseong Broadcasting Corporation JODK and it became KBS Radio 1 in 1965.[9]
  • KBS Radio 2 (603 kHz AM/106.1 MHz FM KBS Happy FM) - Popular music. Launched in 1948 as HLSA.[9]
  • KBS Radio 3 (1134 kHz AM/104.9 MHz FM KBS Voice of Love FM) - Launched in 1980 and ceased broadcasting in 1981. It was later replaced by KBS Radio 2's regional radio service and Educational FM (now EBS FM). Later re-launched in 2000 as a spin-off from KBS Radio 2. For the first time in 2010, it was launched on FM and restructured as a radio station for the disabled.[9]
  • KBS 1FM (93.1 MHz Classic FM) - classical music and folk music. Launched in 1979 as KBS Stereo, adopted current name in 1980.[9]
  • KBS 2FM (89.1 MHz/DMB CH 12B Cool FM) - popular music. Launched in 1966 as Radio Seoul Broadcasting (RSB), renamed as TBC-FM in the 1970s, renamed as KBS Radio 4 in 1980 after TBC-FM forced merger to KBS, then adopted current name in 2003.[9]
  • KBS Hanminjok Radio (literal meaning: KBS Korean Nationality Radio) (6.015 MHz shortwave and 1170 kHz mediumwave) - launched in 1975 as KBS Third Programme[9]
  • KBS World Radio - the South Korean international radio service, funded directly by the government.[9]



Foreign partners


Country Public 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
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
Puerto Rico WIRP TV
República Dominicana Corporación Estatal de Radio y Televisión
United States PBS
Uruguay Televisión Nacional Uruguay and Teve CIUDAD
Venezuela Bolivarian Communication and Information System


Country Public 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
Ukraine UA:PBC
United Kingdom British Broadcasting Corporation


Country Public television
Cambodia National Television of Kampuchea
China China Central Television
India Doordarshan
Indonesia Televisi Republik Indonesia
Japan Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai
Malaysia Radio Televisyen Malaysia
Mongolia Mongolian National Broadcaster
Thailand National Broadcasting Services of Thailand
Taiwan China Television, Taiwan Television, Public Television Service
Turkey Turkish Radio and Television Corporation
Vietnam VTV


Country Public television
Australia Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Special Broadcasting Service
Television New Zealand New Zealand

Operational status


KBS passed the reorganization plan on 1 January 2017, after it was approved by the board of directors. The reorganization plan is to reform the existing six head offices and four center systems to one office, six head offices, two centers, and one operation division. The KBS reorganization plan is to completely reform the organization with a 'business center', including the newly established broadcasting headquarters.


KBS being one of Korea's oldest broadcasters, also had controversies like SBS and MBC, but has more controversies than the two broadcasters, which has given them 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 originally a federation of 20 loosely affiliated member stations located in various parts of Korea. Although they shared much of their programming, each member station was privately owned. After the consolidation, however, each affiliate was forced to give up majority of their shares to the MBC based in Seoul, and MBC Seoul, in turn, was forced to give up majority of its shares to KBS.[10]


  • TBC television became KBS2, and TBC Radio became KBS Radio 4 (now Cool FM/2FM).
  • DBS became the now defunct KBS Radio 5. The frequency is now used by SBS Love FM.
  • SBC became KBS Gunsan,[11] 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 was revived as JTBC.

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.[12]

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."

The ruling Grand National Party initially sought to put a bill concerning the TV subscription charge to a vote, but 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.[13] This includes the Chinilpa Paik Sun-yup.[14]

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.[15][16][17] 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.[18]

2013 – Lee Soon-shin naming scandal

Global Youth League DN filed an injunction at Seoul Central District Court against broadcaster KBS for using the name "Lee Soon-shin" in the title of the drama. The injunction requested that the broadcast be halted immediately, that "Lee Soon-shin" be removed from the title and that the character name be changed. 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.[19][20][21][22] KBS and production company A Story 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.[23][24]

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.[25][26][27]

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

On 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.[28][29] 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.[30] After 141 days, the strike was over when the broadcasting company's board of directors approved the dismissal of KBS president Ko Dae-young.[31][32]

See also


  1. 김, 세옥. ""Chun Doo-hwan new military department", media integration". 피디저널(PD저널).
  2. Choe Sang-Hun, "Computer Networks in South Korea Are Paralyzed in Cyberattacks", The New York Times, 20 March 2013.
  3. Lee Minji (10 April 2013). "(2nd LD) Gov't confirms Pyongyang link in March cyber attacks". Yonhap News.
  4. KBS Annual Report 2006-2007 Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, KBS, 2007.(As mentioned on page 30)
  5. "Channel Info". KBS English. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  6. "Broadcasting Tests Begin for Ultra High Definition". KBS English. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  7. "KBS Launches Children's Channel". Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. 29 May 2012.
  8. "Korea debuts cable channel dedicated to women". Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  9. "Channel Info". KBS English. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  10. "Media Strike in Korea". Ask a Korean!. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  11. Park, In-Kyu (2005). "Public service broadcasting in the market place: the BBC and KBS in the 1990s" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. Se-jeong, Kim (1 July 2011). "DP leader hits KBS for alleged wiretapping". The Korea Times. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  13. Cho (조), Hyeon-ho (현호) (7 June 2011). "KBS는 정권재창출 위한 독재자·친일파 방송". MediaToday (in Korean). Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  14. Cho (조), Hyeon-ho (현호) (25 June 2011). "KBS 친일파를 영웅으로···시청자 '경악' "친일방송축하"". MediaToday (in Korean). Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  15. "SKorea journalists protest alleged pro-gov't bias". Associated Press. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  16. "Massive Media Strike in South Korea". Sampsonia Way. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  17. "Special Show to Celebrate the Retirement of Parachute Executives". WORLDYAN NEWS. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  18. Cho (조), Hyeon-ho (현호) (14 March 2012). 이명박 태어나지도 않은 생가에 혈세 펑펑. MediaToday (in Korean). Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  19. Kim, Tong-hyung (12 March 2013). "Group protests IU's TV drama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  20. Kim, Ji-yeon (12 March 2013). "Korean drama sued over title". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  21. Lee, Sun-min (12 March 2013). "Group protests Lee Soon Shin drama". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  22. Choi, Eun-hwa (12 March 2013). "You′re the Best Lee Soon Shin Gets KBS Involved in Another Title Controversy". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  23. '최고다이순신' 동전포스터, 어떻게 바뀌었나?. TV Report (in Korean). 18 March 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  24. Lee, Sun-min (19 March 2013). "After outcry, KBS alters drama poster". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  25. KBS unions on strike demanding CEO's resignation Archived 7 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. NHK Retrieved on 2014-04-09.
  26. Boycott at KBS leads to shortening of programs Archived 25 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine. NHK Retrieved on 2014-04-09.
  27. KBS board OKs dismissal of chief Archived 7 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. NHK Retrieved on 2014-04-09.
  28. girlfriday. "KBS, MBC union workers go on strike, programs halt production". DramaBeans (30 August 2017). Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  29. Qian. "MBC-KBS Media Strike: Once More, With Feeling". Seoul Beats (12 September 2017). Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  30. Shin, Hyo-ryung (29 October 2017). "KBS 파업 '1박2일' 결방···'슈퍼맨이 돌아왔다'만 방송". Newsis (in Korean). Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  31. Kim, Ka-young (22 January 2018). "KBS이사회, 고대영 사장 해임제청…총파업 141일 만". TV Report (in Korean). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  32. Kim, Mi-Ji (22 January 2018). "[공식입장] KBS 총파업 141일 만에 고대영 사장 퇴출…노조 "우리가 이겼다"". Xsport News (in Korean). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  • KBS.co.kr - official KBS Website (in Korean) (in English)
  • World.KBS.co.kr - official KBS World website (in Korean) (in Arabic) (in German) (in English) (in Spanish) (in French) (in Indonesian) (in Chinese) (in Japanese) (in Vietnamese) (in Russian)
  • KBS America

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