[VIEWPOINT]Magazines fall on hard times

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[VIEWPOINT]Magazines fall on hard times

Since the first publication in 1896 of a newsletter for members of the Overseas Korean Students Club in Japan and the bulletin for the Korea Independence Association, Korean magazines have developed along with the vicissitudes of history of our nation.
During the enlightenment period and Japan’s occupation of Korea, magazines ― including The Boy and The Creation ― instilled in the minds of Korean people a sense of enlightenment and independence. Since the founding of the Republic of Korea, magazines such as The World of Thoughts, The Voice of Seeds and The Deep Rooted Trees have taken the lead in forming public opinion and raising awareness of the times while being loved by intellectuals.
While serving the educational and persuasive function of analyzing and interpreting in-depth social realities more effectively than any other media, magazines have helped create traditional culture and integrate society. Recently, they have led specialization, autonomy and globalization of our society, while providing important knowledge and the sources of information required for the information age in the 21st century.
But our country’s magazines have failed to create the soil for their industrial growth amid the indifference of the government. Moreover, the development of new media such as the Internet, the overflow of free information, the expansion of the video culture and the phenomenon of young readers’ deviation from printed media have stopped the magazine industry’s growth. Suspension or discontinuation of magazines and chronic deficits of publishers are increasing as time passes, and the future of magazines in Korea is grim.
“A Comprehensive Bibliography of Korean Magazines for 2005” shows that although registered as periodicals as of Nov. 30, 2004, 1,034 kinds of magazines have gone under.
This figure accounts for 31 percent of 3,277 kinds of registered magazines in total. As we can see in this figure, Korea’s magazine industry is undergoing serious difficulties. It has reached a point where we can’t just stand by and watch them suffer through a crisis without extending a helping hand.
At present, mass media laws are being revised to preserve and foster the unique characteristics of each medium. Legal measures are being taken to promote each medium: Television and radio are promoted by the Broadcasting Act; books and other publications by the Publishing and Printing Promotion Act; communications by the Act on the Promotion of News Communications; regional newspapers by the Special Support Act for Regional Newspapers and records, videos and games by the Act on Records, Videos and Games.
On the other hand, legal measures are not being taken to ensure the promotion of magazines. The recently revised Act on Ensuring the Freedom and Function of Newspapers and Other Periodicals has focused only on newspapers. This act is aimed largely at regulating and supporting newspapers, so magazines are treated like appendices to newspapers. For this reason, the magazine community is demanding legislation that focuses on the promotion of the magazine industry.
Magazines are very useful media that provide a variety of knowledge, in-depth cultural content and rich information on living, which newspapers, television, radio and movies cannot. The gradual diminishment of their role and function due to aggravating environmental conditions is not desirable for the balanced development of the media either.
So, it is very urgent that an independent law be enacted for the promotion of the magazine sector, which desperately needs it.
Participants in the Forum for the Legislation of a Magazine Promotion Act at the Korea Press Center last month declared a crisis in the 109-year-old Korean magazine industry and agreed to submit a proposal for a magazine promotion act to the National Assembly during its regular session in September.
As time passes, more magazines are suspended or cease to be published, magazine readers are gradually decreasing and magazine publishers cannot escape from chronic management deficits. If this situation continues, no one will be able to predict for sure how many magazine companies will survive.
The magazine industry helps improve people’s lives and creates high added value for the mass media. The government should recognize the importance of magazines and must prepare supportive laws to promote the industry. The passage of a magazine promotion act is the only way to save Korean magazines.

* The writer is the president of Korea Magazine Association. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kang Won-hee
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