Photo: South Korean newspapers at IKEA in Bangkok, provided for free as packing materials. Credit: Twitter.
According to a report by MBC News, South Korea’s export of (physical) newspapers saw an 18-fold increase over two years, from 1,000 tons in 2018 to 18,000 tons in 2020. South Korea’s newspapers are packaged fresh off the press and loaded straight onto container ships, to be sold in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines, for approximately KRW 500 (USD 0.40) per kilogram. Although used newspapers are available around the world, South Korean newspapers are popular due to their packaging and high quality: they arrive neatly packaged in pristine condition, as they were never read before. The report showed large stacks of Dong-A Ilbo 동아일보, Maeil Economy 매일경제, Korea Economy Daily 한국경제 and Seoul Economy 서울경제 at an IKEA in Bangkok, Thailand, provided to the customers as free packing materials.
South Korea’s newspaper export has exploded as subscription to print newspapers have nearly disappeared: as of 2019, only 6.4% of all households subscribed to a print newspaper delivery. Yet for the sake of advertisement revenue, the newspapers continue to print a similar number of issues to maintain the appearance of keeping up their circulation numbers. In February, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 문화체육관광부 began an investigation of the Korea Audit Bureau of Circulation ABC협회 for exaggerating paid circulation by as much as double the actual figure. (See previous coverage.)