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The American press and the rise of authoritarianism in South Korea 1945-1954

Elliott, Oliver (2016) The American press and the rise of authoritarianism in South Korea 1945-1954. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis looks at American press coverage of the rise of authoritarian rule in South Korea between 1945 and 1954, during the period of the American occupation government and the first six years of the Syngman Rhee regime. Making use of government, military and press archives, it is the first scholarly analysis of how the American press wrote about the early political development of South Korea and explores the question of why political repression under both the occupation and the Rhee regime did not receive greater attention from American journalists. This thesis focuses primarily on the production process of press coverage. Specifically, it shows how coverage of the authoritarianism issue was shaped by U.S. and South Korean political and military authorities, the professional working culture of the journalism profession and the worldviews and activism of individual journalists and lobbyists. It argues that coverage was sharply limited by five major factors. Firstly, the dominance of anti-Korean and Cold War press narratives ensured that relatively little attention was paid to the repression of the South Korean population. Secondly, most journalists working in the Far East were highly deferential to American authorities. Thirdly, American military authorities greatly constrained reporting during the occupation period. Fourthly, the Syngman Rhee regime became increasingly effective in its public relations activities. Fifthly, the low level of U.S. political interest in the political situation in South Korea greatly reduced the importance of the topic for the American press.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Oliver Elliott
Library of Congress subject classification: E History America > E151 United States (General)
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Casey, Steven

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