Saturday, March 23, 2013

Internet news media and issue development: a case study on the roles of independent online news services as agenda-builders for anti-US protests in South Korea

Internet News Media And Issue Development: A Case Study On The Roles Of Independent Online News Services As Agenda-Builders For Anti-US Protests In South Korea


Song (2007) conducted a study that compared online news sources to mainstream newspapers with their reactions to the death of two schoolgirls by a manned U.S. military vehicle in 2002.  Several groups and news agencies in South Korea used this event to as a way to share their grievances against the Status of United States Armed Forces Agreement (SOFA).   SOFA is a treaty between the U.S. and South Korea that outlines the legal procedure for crimes against U.S. military individuals.  Many South Koreans believe SOFA favors U.S. military individuals to commit crimes that go un-punished.  Despite Korean authorities asking for the jurisdiction to make the military officers be subjected to South Korean courts, the U.S. intervened under SOFA and delivered not-guilty verdicts for the death of the two South Korean schoolgirls, resulting in organized protests throughout South Korea (Song, 2007).  Song (2007) conducted a news analysis to determine if there were differences in the number and timing of news stories pertaining to the death of the two schoolgirls and related issues between traditional news media and online news sources. 

Song (2007) analyzed the publication material of five South Korean news organizations, which included three national newspapers and two online news sources over a 30-week period after the death of two South Korean schoolgirls in 2002.  The newspapers Chosun and JoongAng are the largest South Korea news organizations and are deemed to be conservative in nature.  The other newspaper source the Hankyoreh was analyzed and is deemed to be more progressive in its content.  The two online new sources Song (2007) added to his study were the PRESSian and OhmyNews.  PRESSian at the time of the study was the leading independent online new source in South Korea, while OhmyNews is a heavily opinionated new source that relies on citizen participation for its content (Song, 2007).

The results of the study demonstrated that the progressive news sources, especially the online news services had the largest influence on news publications.  The non-guilty verdict of the U.S. military court increased the amount of publications by progressive activists utilizing online news publications to convey disproval.  This increase influenced traditional news sources to increase publications as well, but not as frequently as the below chart demonstrates (Song, 2007).  This aspect seemed to suggest that online news sources under study were able to control how much traditional news sources reported on the murder of two South Korean schoolgirls.  The online media sources that were part of the sample seemed to be the catalyst for the escalation of reported news publications and escalating resentment towards SOFA, leading to large organized protests against the U.S. in South Korea.  Furthermore, the most intriguing aspect of the study was that during the studied 30-week period the trend in news publications decreased until the U.S. military court issued the not-guilty verdict during week 23, in which Internet news media agencies significantly increased news publications.  Song (2007) states that the influence of significant triggering news events is stronger than inter-media influence on impacting what the media should report on.  


Even though Song (2007) found interesting trends in news reporting both in traditional print sources and internet reporting of news for a particular event, it is important to clarify that his conclusions should be taken with some discretion.  The scope of the study was only limited to South Korea and over a short duration of time, 30 weeks.  To validate the results of the study it would be necessary to either choose another country to study or track another event in South Korea to see if similar findings to this study occur.

In terms of relating to intelligence practices, the use of the Internet to publish politicized material is important to be familiarized with.  Song’s (2007) study found that the reviewed Internet news sources published far more publications than traditional news sources and influenced traditional news sources to increase their coverage of events.   The author found that Internet media sources were able to escalate the reactions of South Korean citizens towards the perceived injustice with U.S. court provisions associated with SOFA.  Most significantly, South Korea’s robust Internet infrastructure has the capability to further escalate the power associated with online news sources and their influence on citizen perceptions and behavior.  The influence of online news media created organized protests for disproval against SOFA and increased anti-U.S. sentiment.  Not only was the Internet able to create organized protests, it was able to be a factor in the presidential race that year when the progressive candidate beat the conservative opponent in South Korea (Song, 2007). 

Ultimately, a news analysis such as conducted by Song (2007) demonstrates the importance to be familiarized with the many different sources of news publications, both traditional and online and how they influence societal behavior in a certain region.  The author’s study found that online media sources had a greater effect on influencing the reader’s behavior and attitudes.  Understanding both forms of open source data is key for an intelligence analyst in terms of probabilistic thinking in predicting future actions and likelihood of potential outcomes. Although Song’s (2007) results need to be tested again to prove reliability, the trends in the escalation of media coverage suggest the increasing role of the Internet to provide news coverage over traditional sources of news.  Online news media coupled with social media needs to be analyzed more frequently by the intelligence analyst of today because it offers more insights into predicting behavior in foreign regions.       

Source: Song, Yonghoi. (2007). Internet News Media And Issue Development: A Case Study On The Roles Of Independent Online News Services As Agenda-Builders For Anti-US Protests In South Korea. New Media Society, 9(1), 71-92. Retrieved from


  1. I'm glad this research compared online news with print publications, because I feel a lot of news analysis research does not touch on this. However, it seems like the publications chosen did not compare very well in terms of publishers and readership, which likely affects the study's findings. Furthermore, it seems that author claims a causal relationship, with online media causing print media to increase coverage, but I fail to see how news analysis could prove this causal relationship. I do not doubt there is a relationship, but the causal nature of it, at least from what is including in this summary, does not appear to be proven through news analysis.

    1. The study did not focus on who the readership was in terms of demographics and did not speak to the total amount of individuals who read each of the five new publications in the author's sample. The summary of the findings by Song and the relationship he found with traditional news media and online news sources appears to be casual, but that is probably based on how I summarized the article. Song did conduct some statistical analysis within his research to come up with his conclusions, but he really didn't explain very well in my opinion how the results demonstrated the correlations he witnessed. However, to get the amount of publications on the subject matter, the author choose to look for sources in South Korea that mentioned: Protest, Korean Government, USA in general, SOFA, Incident/Investigation, and Anti-US sentiment over the 30 week period. I agree that the relationship Song found seems very logical to be true, but to have definitive proof of his results it is necessary to conduct his research again and in different areas of the globe. This would help his reliability in my opinion.

  2. I am glad that you mentioned South Korea's advanced internet infrastructure in your critique- online news in South Korea in 2002 would have been key as a means to cover current events. I agree that both are important to examine, as long as articles are not double counted if they appear in both print and on online newspapers. One issue I had was that even if the online news sources had been excluded, there still would have been a significant peak around the 26th week from the incident.

    Although using similar studies to validate the results could be useful, I think the five sources chosen are a good representation for investigating the murder of the two South Korean schoolgirls. This event is very specific to South Korea (and the United States), and despite most likely causing international attention to this unfortunate event, in the end it really only directly affects South Korea and the United States. Thus, using a variety of South Korean news sources is appropriate and does not imply needed validation unless it is the methodology being tested and not the topic.