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Tailored Information after Autocratic Regime Personalization: Evidence from South Korean Newspapers
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of California, Merced, United States
How does the personalization of power in a dictatorship change the way profit-driven media portrays major political actors, such as a dictator, ruling elites, and opposition elites? Building on existing studies suggesting that personalization incentivizes a dictator to enhance media control to deter potential mobilization against the government, I argue that media after personalization tailor information in ways that promote the dictator while denigrating marginalized elites. Using a corpus of historical newspapers in the South Korean dictatorship under Park Chung Hee, coupled with Structural Topic Models, I provide extensive empirical evidence supporting this claim. President Park was more likely to be portrayed as an important and competent leader who handled imminent international affairs, including North Korea issues. In contrast, personalization led media portrayals of marginalized elites, especially opposition elites, to focus more on topics that revealed the incompetence of such elites. Using a chronologically trained word embedding model, I further find that compared to ruling elites, opposition elites were more likely to be depicted in media after personalization as a group struggling with coordination due to factional disputes.