Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Well, it came several months late, but at least AFN Korea has been taken off of my cable dial.

I wrote in the beginning of the year about how AFN Korea was getting removed from Korean cable TV services because the cable service operators are not licensed to retransmit the channel. AFN was supposed to be all gone by May, but it continued to linger, at least on my cable system.

Some time a few months ago, my analog cable service stopped carrying AFN (not sure exactly when, as I very rarely use the analog service). And finally on Tuesday, the digital cable channels were all rearranged, and in the process, AFN Korea was removed from it, too.

I use C&M Cable, which is the biggest cable company in Korea, so this looks pretty final. No more AFN for me ... unless I buy a big ole' antenna, so I can get it free-to-air for another three or four years. But I doubt that is going to happen.

I have so many found memories of AFN Korea, from when I first moved to Seoul. Back when Korean TV was truly dire. In the 1990s, there were very few cable channels, and few of them had much in the way of foreign programming. Deathly dull.

Back then, AFN offered a whole bunch of first-rate American programs, usually within months of being broadcast in the United States. For special broadcasts, like the last episode of Seinfeld, they would show the program just a few hours later. We also got to watch plenty of sports, most of the NCAA basketball tournament, most of the NBA playoffs, and a whole lot of football. (And oodles of NASCAR, but that is not really my thing). Plus there was all those old, heavily edited movies AFN played from 1am until 5am on weekdays.

Gradually, however, American TV execs got pissed off that people like myself (ie, non-military types) were watching all that US programming for free. Even worse, they really were upset that the cable companies were making money off of programs that were supposed to be only for US servicemen. When the Korean TV industry was tiny, no one cared, but as the 1990s went on, it began to grow into a much more lucrative market. So the US television companies started to deny AFN Korea the right to retransmit their programs. The sports quickly dried up. The TV programs grew older and lamer until there was seemingly nothing but Star Trek Voyager and Judge Judy. Then the news disappeared, too. For the last few months, FAMILY GUY and the other Tuesday animated shows (and GENERAL HOSPITAL) were just about the only reason I watched AFN.

So, bye-bye AFN. Thanks for the fond memories. The Anthrax Ninja. The great advice (Don't use a beer bottle as a weapon. Don't ruin OPSEC. Don't waste your tour. Don't commit suicide.) The Eagle. (Btw, who would win in a fight between the AFN Eagle and the Anthrax Ninja?).


Brian said...

I haven't looked into this much, so there might be a very good explanation . . . but I never understood they tolerated having a military channel in the homes of thousands, if not millions, of Korean viewers. I don't ever recall any sensitive information being passed along over the airwaves, but it just seems to me like they'd want to keep the channel to themselves, hidden from the "foreign" hosts who, you never know, might use any information against the servicemembers.

Mark Russell said...

Well, AFKN Seoul is broadcast free-to-air (ie, by antenna) in Seoul, so anyone or any cable operator can pick up the signal. Nothing the US military can do about that, besides stop broadcasting free to air (which they will once Yongsan base closes and they move south).

But because so many US servicemen and contractors live off-base and cannot get AFRTS's satellite service, the free-to-air broadcasts are still important (although in the age of the Internet, are much less important than they were just a few years ago).

oranckay said...

I rock at Trivial Pursuit Americana questions thanks to decades of AFKN.

Max Watson said...

AFKN's far from dead. I pick it up in Hongdae with a mere 6" wire jammed into my tv as an antenna. Also pick up several 1080i HDTV broadcasts.

eunma said...

It wasn't just American TV execs who wanted Korean cable companies to stop re-broadcasting the signal - it was Korean television stations. MBC ESPN pays for the rights to broadcast NFL games - its bottom line is hurt if a cable company is broadcasting the same game. The almighty dollar (or won, as it were) rules the airwaves these days.