The Influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the Effectiveness of Media Based on Analysis of Perception of the Public on the Issues of North Korea

The Influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the Effectiveness of Media Based on Analysis of Perception of the Public on the Issues of North Korea

Chapter 2: Literature Review


The media has been proven to have an influence on individuals. For instance, studies on the connection between exposure to risk of glorifying the media and the levels of risk taking behaviors have proved the existence of a positive relationship between the two (Fischer et al., 2009). According to a study by Beullens & Bulck (2008), playing risk-glorifying racing games cause underage driving. For the case of media violence, media content triggers aggressive ideas that lead people to express aggressive behavior in his/her social environment (Havaeneanu & Popusoi, 2016). The influence of the media has increased with the advent of technology and internet connectivity. Due to this, the influence of the media has extended beyond borders.

The internet has a positive influence on national and international knowledge and information (Mathews, 2008). However, personal inclination and character can determine the perception of an individual on an issue or a topic of interest. This chapter surveys literature on the effect of the self-regulatory focus on the effectiveness of media based on analysis of perceptions of the public on the issue of nuclear missiles in North Korea. The chapter attempts to point out that even though the influence of the media on public perception has been proven repeatedly, personal tendency, character, and inclination can determine the perception that one maintains on an issue such as this.

Empirical Literature

The Concept of Mass Media Broadcasting

Mass media is a collection of media technologies that are use to reach a large number of people through mass communication. Apart from distributing news, media technologies are also used for storage of contents that are produced by specialized agencies under a pre-determined schedule in a linguistic or a national community. Mass media have programs. Contents are pre-packaged and distributed according to some substantive regimes and time schedules (Meulemann & Hagenah, 2009).

Mass media is distinguishable from individual media like letters,e internet, books, and telephones. Individual media is produced individually by people and are received based on the people’s needs. Furthermore, individual media is restricted to a small and socially restricted audience. For instance, it can be targeted at family, friends, and intellectual or professional peers. Individual media is attached to communities that are founded on personal relations, which may or may not be due to face-to-face connections. On the other hand, mass media are attached to a national society (Meulemann & Hagenah, 2009). Mass media is divisible into broadcast (electronic) and print. Modern societies have only three mass media: newspapers, radio and television. Newspaper dates back to the 17th century, radio in the 1920s, and television in the 1950s (Meulemann & Hagenah, 2009). The electronic media of television and radio are different from other electronic media as they use transmission technology that scatters their signals everywhere. The transmitters generate waves that carry messages or voice transmissions that make up television and radio programmes. Radio waves travel via air carrying programmes to homes and other sites where they are received through television and radio sets.

Broadcast media is also known as wireless transmission or wireless communication because there are no wires connecting receiving sets and transmitters (Tafida, 2015). Unlike broadcast media, print media have characteristics such as special mental demand and permanence. On the other hand, broadcast media have characteristics like limited airtime, transience, and limited mental demand. The information in the print media is taken through the eye but that in the broadcast media is mainly taken through the ear (Tafida, 2015). The Internet has expanded the extent to which radio and television signals can be shared or scattered. It has promoted globalization of the mass media. In addition, the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) toward the end of the 20th century gave individuals a means of exposure that was similar to mass media. For this reason, the Internet has become the center of mass media. Today, people are able to watch their favorite TV programs or listen to their favorite radio programs through the Internet. With the Internet, people can therefore access television and radio programs even without television or radio sets and this enables people to listen to radio in any part of the world that the internet is accessible (Kheeshadesh, 2010).

Influence of Mass Media

Scholars have proven over the years that mass media has the potential to influence people’s perceptions. For instance, studies have shown that early media exposure influences cognitive development and academic achievement of children. Academic achievement and cognitive abilities of children can be improved when children are exposed to programs that are appropriate to their age and which have been designed around an educational curriculum (Kirkoian, Wartella & Anderson, 2008).

Studies have also associated aggressive and reckless driving to risk glorifying programmes in the media. In their study on whether mass media can influence people to be aggressive and violent, Havarneanu and Popusoi (2016) found that media content has an impact on the cognition, emotions, and behaviors of an individual. The findings of Havarneanu and Popusoi’s study showed that passive and active media exposure increase maladaptive behaviors such as aggression and risk taking (Fischer et al., 2011). The results of the study supported the hypothesis that passive media content leads toaggressive and risky driving. The study further showed that when drivers encounter positive content, they report less aggressive and risky driving. Opposite outcomes are achieved when drivers encounter negative content. There is an increase in expression of aggressive and violent behaviors when the content is more negative. Similarly, people tend to have high chances of acting positively when content is more positive. According to the General Aggression Model, the mass media influence people because they provide role models (Anderson et al., 2010).

Another important study was done by Robbers (2005). Robbers examined the attitudes toward control of guns among a student population. He used instrumental perspective (fear of crime) and instrumental perspectives and tested when the attitude of the respondents was influenced when they watched the film Bowling for Columbine. Robbers used a classic experimental design in his study. The findings from the post-test showed that the media has an influence on the opinions of students. This is because the posttest’s results showed a significant support of gun control policies among the experimental group.

Perception of North Korea over the Issue of Nuclear Missiles by the Public

Over the years, North Korea has used the media to show itself as a de facto nuclear state. The country conducts frequent nuclear tests with the aim of confirming a design that can be attached to a missile. After doing this, North Korea usually describes its nuclear warhead detonation tests with terms such as diversification, lightweight, miniaturization, and standardization (Park & Lee, 2016). The tests usually demonstrate the improving ability of North Korea to produce high quality nuclear missiles. For instance, the fifth nuclear test carried out on September 9, 2016 demonstrated that North Korea was highly likely to develop the ability to mass-produce nuclear missiles. The nuclear tests show that they are no longer desperate measures but routine activities aimed at improvement of the country’s nuclear arsenal. This points out that North Korea indeed needs to be seen as a de facto nuclear state.

North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power in Northeast Asia is not likely to change the security landscape of the region. This is because North Korea’s military capabilities are not much to the deterrence system created by the US-Japan and US-Korea alliance. Nonetheless, the nuclear weapons in North Korea’s possessions can complicate the existing regional order even if it would not alter fundamentally the existing regional order (Choi, 2016).

In order for North Korea’s nuclear weapons to alter the security order of the region, the states in Northeast Asia have to adopt different sets of diplomatic responses and military strategies. However, this is difficult considering the fact that for many years, the US, Russia and China have rigidly maintained the strategic deterrence system. In addition, the alliance made up of the US, South Korea, and Japan has remained united against North Korea. However, the nuclear weapons of North Korea are a dangerous reality in Northeast Asia and Korean Peninsula. Currently, North Korea is not a danger to the US. In spite of the more flamboyant statements made by its leaders, North Korea lack the ability to hit New York, Washington, and other long distance targets. However, there is little doubt about the fact that they are able to hit countries like South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia. In spite of this fact, China and Russia do not feel threatened by North Korea. Actually, North Korea mainly threatens South Korea and Japan, which are key allies of the US. For this reason, the US feels threatened by North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The US looks at North Korea as a threat to regional security and to international stability and peace (Choi & Bae, 2016).

The US, England, China, Japan and Southern Korea understand that nuclear weapons are very dangerous weapons and can inflict catastrophic damage, far greater than any other weapons from thermal, blast, and radiation effects, which are unique to nuclear weapons. A very small number of nuclear weapons can completely destroy or paralyze a state or a city. Due to this fact, people facing an enemy with nuclear weapons have unmatched fear. The fear is increased by the fact that it can be impossible to offer perfect air-defense against incoming nuclear missiles as the defense can be defeated through the use of multiple warheads and decoys (Lewis & Postol, 2012). The missile defense system cannot be so accurate to interrupt incoming missiles in the air yet even if one nuclear missile were to penetrate the missile defense system of a country, it would create unimaginable annihilation. This would lead to a nuclear holocaust. This was seen with the case of Pakistan where nuclear weapons was seen to motivate a weak and dissatisfied power to challenge territorial status quo with less fear (Kapur, 2008). Based on logic, the capability of nuclear weapons and the powerful image ascribed to it enhances the diplomatic confidence of a state. Furthermore, nuclear weapons strengthen the aggressive behavior of a state towards its enemies (Alagappa, 2008).

North Korea is widely considered a rogue state mostly by her enemies. The leader of North Korea is seen as irrational, impulsive, and mad. This has been strengthened by the mass media, which always portrays the leader of North Korea in negative light. According to Choi & Bae (2016), due to the perception of North Korea as a rogue state, the fear that it can utilize its nuclear weapons has increased the fear of the country by its enemies. Furthermore, it is widely thought that the government of North Korea, which is seen as extremely abusive at home, would use the country’s nuclear weapons to expand its revolutionary goals. Based on this view, it is feared by many that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons not to defend itself but as an attacker. This view is further supported by the idea that the government of North Korea has nothing to lose and so, can readily use the nuclear weapons for political objectives such as re-unification with South Korea on the terms of North Korea (Cha, 2014). This argument clearly points out that North Korea is highly likely to adopt dangerous strategies that include limited military provocations and nuclear blackmail because its leaders country in Pyongyang are overconfident of the country’s nuclear weapons capability. This perception underscores the argument that possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea is a great threat to the Korean Peninsula and probably, would destabilize the regional security of Northeast Asia.

However, there is another perception – nuclear weapons can act as stabilizing factor. The catastrophic feature of nuclear weapon detonations can actually promote the deterrence relationship between states that are armed with nuclear weapons. Countries that have nuclear weapons can feel highly vulnerable to attacks from major powers. This feeling and awareness can deter a country from acting boldly and aggressively toward another due to its nuclear weapons (Waltz, 2012). Furthermore, from the perspective of a weaker power, the possession of nuclear weapons can reduce the possibility of a powerful enemy using its military power to destroy its weaker enemy. This is because the weapons can compensate for military inferiority. Based on this perspective, a weaker nation would aim to maintain nuclear weapons in order to make themselve safer by deterring the powerful enemy from attacking the out of the fear that the weaker nation can use their nuclear weapons. The North Korean media propagates this perception. Even though it has been threatened on several occasions by the US, it has continued to own long-range nuclear missiles. North Korea is simply establishing itself as a state with nuclear weapons in order to deter South Korea, the US, and its other enemies. If the weaker nation’s perspective is true, then it is highly likely that peace and security would improve in the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. Even if this is not true, it is clear that North Korea is relying on its nuclear to protect itself. This shows that North Korea is of the view that with nuclear weapons, it cannot be attacked by the US, South Korea, and Japan. North Korea envisions a state where the risk of nuclear catastrophe stabilizes the conflict in the region by reducing the possibility of states attacking each other.

North Korea can be a rogue nation but contrary to opinions of many of its enemies, it is not a rogue country. This is shown by it move to have nuclear weapons. The fact that the country has over the years worked to improve its nuclear weapons shows that it is only trying to overcome its strategic inferiority in order to be safe from enemies who seem stronger. This is the rationality obsession with nuclear weapons. Given this, North Korea can be seen as a wise state that is only trying to exploit the weaker nation’s perspective in order to promote peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and in the whole of Northeast Asia. This fact is advanced by the fact that there is a high likelihood that the alliances between the US and South Korea and the US and Japan will be maintained (Cordesman & Hess, 2013). The military power of North Korea would probably grow with its nuclear weapons. However, this power does not threaten the current security order in the Korean Peninsula. The US can obliterate North Korea as a country several times but with the nuclear weapons, an attack on North Korea is highly risky to the civilians and forces of the US and South Korea. The benefits of a first strike would be uncertain for the US, South Korea, and North Korea. The targeted state can retaliate is a way that would be unbearable to the attacking party no matter the outcome of a new all-out war or a limited war (Payne, 2015; Cimbala, 2010). This fact underscores the idea that North Korea holds the weaker nation’s perspective because instead of promoting conflict, the nuclear weapons strengthen the existing peace by circumscribing the offensive roles of forces on both sides of the Korean Conflict.

The cost of the conflict between the North Korea and South Korea, supported by the US, was still an important factor before North Korea acquired nuclear weapons. This has remained the case even after North Korea acquired for nuclear weapons. The importance of the cost of the conflict and the risk of the conflict has increased with North Korea building its own nuclear capabilities. The emergence of North Korea as a nuclear power has in turn created a security dilemma. Nonetheless, as long as the parties in the conflict prefer to maintain the status quo, there will not be war between North Korea and South Korea and her allies. Increased security tension does not mean that there would be a war. The involved parties would aim to maintain the status quo because in spite of the increase in the threat to state security, each party would not attack the other as each state would be capable of punitive retaliatory strikes. The potential initiator would refrain from starting a war due to the cost of the war, low possibility of a win, and high possibility that the target nation will retaliate in a very destructive manner. So long as South Korea, Japan, and the US cope with threats of nuclear tests that North Korea keeps performing, there will be peace in Korean Peninsula. This is likely to happen considering the fcat that for many years, stability in the region has been maintained. The Korean Peninsula is just a narrow geographical area and therefore, North Korea and South Korea are vulnerable to each other. For this reason, each is deterred from using military force against the other (Choi, 2016; Snyder, 2012; You, 2012).

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is only 40KM south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and northern Seoul is exposed to the massive artillery and rocket forces of North Korea. In addition, both countries have a high concentration of their forces along the DMZ. North Korea has seventy percent of its forces along the 240KM long DMZ. The Fourth Division Artillery Corps of North Korea targets Seoul and its surrounding areas with about 400 artillery tubes. On its part, South Korea has all of it 21 army divisions and one of its two Marine Corps divisions along the DMZ. The forces are for a rapid reaction with the support of the superior air and naval power. In addition, in case of a provocation by North Korea, most people are of the opinion, justifiably so, that US forces would support the activities of the South Korean forces. The US and South Korea provide extensive deterrence to North Korea based on home-based and forward-deployed forces. The US and South Korea are able to deter North Korea even with its nuclear weapons. However, the enormous advantage that the US and South Korea has had over North Korea has reduced. With its nuclear weapons, North Korea has substituted its inferior forces against South Korea and the US. For this reason, the US and South Korea have been deterred from attacking it. This is because there is a high chance for civilian casualties and industrial destruction in case North Korea fought back. Due to the fact that South Korea is more economically developed than North Korea, it would suffer more in a limited and/or an all-out war with North Korea. The nuclear weapons of North Korea are therefore important as they strengthen the existing deterrence system. In spite of this fact, South Korea, the US, and Japan do not see anything good with North Korea’s nuclear weapons For this reason, each is deterred from using military force against the other (Choi & Bae, 2016). Therefore, there are different perceptions between them and those supporting North Korea.

Influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the Effectiveness of the Media Based on the Public’s Perceptions about North Korea’s Missiles Tension


North Korea is usually represented in conflicting terms in the mass media. In international politics, North Korea is usually associated with its nuclear missiles and programmes. In 2010 for instance, the US Department of Defense pointed out in its 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review that North Korea is developing long-range missiles that could hit the US (US DoD, 2010). It further made that point at the time North Korea had never tested long-range nuclear missiles successfully. The position of DoD could not have been motivated by the announcement by the government of North Korea that the country would test satellites as it had always been emphasizing that it would do so. DoD only assumed that sooner or later, North Korea will be able to make a nuclear missile that could hit the US. The representation of North Korea as a threat is a common practice for the mass media in the US. The media mostly represents North Korea as a belligerent and dangerous country in Northeast Asia. The images of the military of North Korea are usually used to show the perfect organization (Shim & Nabers, 2011).

CNN, one of the leading basic cable and satellite television news channel in the US, is one of the television networks propagating and strengthening the view that North Korea is a threat to the US. For instance, on July 25, 2017, the channel aired a news broadcast titled, “North Korea promises nuclear strike on US if regime is threatened.” According to the bulleting, North Korea would hit the heart of the US if it attempts to remove Kim Jong-un, the Supreme leader of North Korea. CNN further points out that North Korea was responding to the claim by Mike Pompeo, CIA Director, that there is need for the government of the US to find a way to separate Kim from his nuclear stockpile. In addition to that information, it is noted that the nulcear test that had been recently done by North Korea showed that the US could be hit with a ballistic missile from North Korea (Cohen & Starr, 2017).

In another bulletin on August 1, 2017, CNN further portrayed North Korea as a dangerous threat to the US. The news bulletin was titled, “North Korea tested its longest-ranging missile ever. Now what?” In this bulletin, CNN pointed out that the nuclear missile flew for about 45 minutes, 3,700 kilometers high, and a distance of 1,000 kilometers. It also noted that the test showed that North Korea may have more advanced missiles than previously thought. According to CNN, the missile could reach major US cities like Denver, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles if fired on a standard trajectory. However, CNN pointed out that experts are skeptical of whether North Korea can really hit the US with its nuclear weapons because they have heavier payload. In spite of this, the threat of North Korea is hard to assume as experts do not currently know the mass of the payload that was used in the nuclear test. The threat of North Korea actually using its ballistic missiles was increased by the response of the US and its allies after the test. South Korea and the US conducted live military exercises to show their abilities after the nuclear test. Two B-1 bombers of the US flew over Korean Peninsula for 10 hours. This was considered reactive.

The usual portrayal of North Korea as a threat of the US by CNN and other news sources in the country has made a large number of Americans to view North Korea as a threat. In 2016, a long list of threats that are of great interest to Americans were listed by a Gallup poll. The threats included international terrorism, cyberterrorism, conflict in Syria, large number o refuges in North America and Europe, global warming, the military power of North Korea, among others. According to the poll, 58 percent of Americans felt that the military power of North Korea was a great threat to the US (Stein, 2009). This shows that most of them have fallen for the description of North Korea by the American mass media.

South Korea

South Koreans perceive North Korea in two different ways. To begin with, change on how North Korea was perceived became noticeable with the coming into power of the government of Roh Moo-hyun, who was president from 2003 to 2007. In spite of the continuing development of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the ties between South Korea and the US, the Roh government sought to change the relationship between South Korea and North Korea. Essentially, the Roh government aimed to strengthen the political and economic engagement with North Korea. For this reason, there was need to change the relationship between the US and South Korea. The Roh administration wanted more independence from the US in determination of South Korea’s foreign policy and national security. The administration then started to engage more to the level never seen before with North Korea. This move fostered a change in the perception of North Korea by the citizens of South Korea.

The democratization movement of the 1980s led to the creation of a salient political generation that could be the reason why the Roh administration wanted a closer relationship with North Korea. During the movement, many workers and university students perceived the US in terms of military might, thus developing anti-American views. This made the workers and the students to support a closer relationship between North Korea and South Korea because they felt the anti-communist policies of the then military regime of South Korea were preventing the development of inter-Korean relations. They felt that a persistent engagement of North Korea with South Korea would lead to establishment of mutual trust and confidence. The students and workers actually blamed the separation of Korea on the US and USSR. For them, the solution of the problem between South Korea and North Korea could only come from the two Koreas. The change in the perception of North Korea by South Koreans could have changed how people perceive it.

The other perception is anchored on the fact that the South Korean media is generally conservative. For this reason, it is expected that it will most likely favor views toward the US and dislike views toward North Korea. Unlike the democratization generation, the war generation is anti-North Korea and thus, holds favorable views toward the US and unfavorable view toward North Korea. This was seen in the national opinion survey of the sinking of Cheonam. In the study, it was found out that 45.3 percent of the democratization generation blamed North Korea for the sinking of the ship as compared to 91.3 percent of the war generation. The two generations differ also on the appropriate approach to North Korea. The war generation prefers a retaliatory action that could be economic or military while the democratization generation prefers talks with the North to solve the problem (Ryu, 2013). Therefore, in case the democratization generation captures political power, they could orient the foreign policy closer to North Korea and away from the US.

However, even though the government of South Korea has changed how it perceives North Korea, the conservative media prefer to portray North Korea as a threat to South Korea. Furthermore, the conservative media prefer to talk about the alliance between the US and South Korea as important for the security of South Korea. On the other hand, the progressive media houses in the country such as the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS World) prefer to show inter-Korean collaboration as important when it comes to solving the problems between the two Koreas. This shows that South Koreans are caught between two conflicting identities, which are the alliance identity and the nationalist identity. Those holding alliance identity view the North as a threat on the one hand and on the other, see the US as an important provider of security to South Korea (Ryu, 2013).

KBS World promotes the view that North Korea is not a threat to South Korea. According a number of news bulletins by KBS World, the broadcasting service mostly supports the idea that North Korea aims to make a deal with the US for lifting of sanctions and economic incentives. On a news bulletin titled, N. Korea Launches Another ICBM , KBS World pointed that North Korea seemed to have launched the nuclear missile at night in order to demonstrate to the US that it could strike at any time (KBS World Radio, 2017). In its description of the reason why North Korea has persisted in its development of nuclear weapons, KBS World notes that North Korea wants to improve its security situation because it fears the US. According to KBS World, North Korea hopes that by having nuclear missiles, it can deter the US from attacking it. In this way, KBS World seems to be justifying the actions of North Korea by showing that indeed, the North is not a threat to the South. The way KBS World actually portrays North Korea explains the results of the World Gallup Poll of 2006, which showed that only 43 percent of South Koreans felt that North Korea is a serious threat to them. However, more than 70 percent of them wanted the US to remain South Korea’s military ally. In spite of this contradiction, the poll showed that South Koreans feel that the maintenance of the US in their country should be beyond the threat of North Korea (Gi-wook & Burke, 2006).


In the past, the Japanese did not see North Korea as a threat to them. In the 1990s, many Japanese were actually sympathetic to North Korea. This was seen with the close ties between the Japanese Socialist Party and the North Korean Workers Party as well as the presences of groups such as the Parliamentarian’s League for Promotion of Japan-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It was after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made a confession on September 17, 2002 that North Korea abducted Japanese citizens that the Japanese began to view North Korea negatively. Following the confession, the Japanese mass media ran news updates, debate programs, and documentaries that were exclusively hostile toward North Korea causing the envelopment of a negative view of North Korea by the Japanese. The change of perception by the Japanese toward North Korea was furthered by the North Korea’s 1998 Taepodong missile launch that flew over Japan. The missile launch forced the Japanese to change their security policy. Today, many Japanese perceive North Korea as an enemy to them. However, it is not the missiles threat that really pushes the Japanese to view North Korea negatively. Instead, it is the abduction issue. Nonetheless, the missile threat strengthens that negative view of North Korea by the Japanese (Hanssen, 2011).

The Japanese media fosters the negative perception of North Korea. For instance, NHK, known officially in English as the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, mostly portray the negative side of North Korea. For instance, on August 2, 2017 the stories about North Korea carried had titles like, Japan, US discuss new UN resolution on N.Korea, N.Korea Criticizes S. Korea’s call for dialogue, and Japan urging to work on sanctions on N. Korea. In these stories, NHK pointed out that North Korea is a great threat to the US but also to Japan. For instance, in the news bulletin titled, Analysis: North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles, NHK propogated the idea that the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, had noted that North Korea’s nuclear missiles were a great threat to Japan. According to a NHK correspondent, Hiroki Yajima, three of the nuclear missiles had fallen in waters inside the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone (NHK World, 2017).


No European country perceives North Korea as a military threat to them. Nonetheless, no country in Europe holds North Korea in high esteem. The negative perception of North Korea by European countries has been built by the mass media that often centers on news about the missiles and nuclear weapons of North Korea (Hassen, 2011). For instance, BBC carrieds stories about North Korea’s missies, nuclear, and threats. For instance, in North Korea’s nuclear programme: How advanced is it?, BBC reported that even though it is not clear whether North Korea has small nuclear warheads that can fit on missile, it has a nuclear bombs. In addition, it noted that North Korea has conducted several successful nuclear tests that show that it has strong nuclear bombs (BBC, 2017). To further strengthen this argument, BBC pointed out that the test of September 2016 showed that North Korea has a device with an explosive yield of between 10 and 30 kilotonnes. In this way, the English mass media portray North Korea in negative light and makes people view it as a great danger to the world.


China has been a key ally to North Korea for a long time. This is mainly because they are both communist states. The relationship between China and North Korea was cemented during the Korean War. Over the years, China has been supplying about 70-90 percent of North Korea’s energy needs and 40 percent of its food supplies. Furthermore, China is North Korea’s largest trading partner. However, the relationship between the two countries has changed with time after China realized that North Korea is a threat to its security, especially with the increasing nuclear capability. It is against this backdrop that the Chinese President Xi Jinping has criticized North Korea for its nuclear weapons and has promised to cooperate more with South Korea and employ harsher economic sanctions on North Korea (Ru, 2016). However, even though there has been a change in the relationship between North Korea and China, the Chinese media still treat North Korea with some respect. This is seen in the CCTV clip that a news presenter commentates about the North Korea’s Military Parade. The news presenter claimed that the missiles that were being proudly displayed by North Koreans could soon carry nuclear warheads. However, the news did not mention North Korea’s plans about nuclear weapons.

Theoretical Literature

Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT)

Various studies have shown that the mass media has the ability to influence people into acting in certain ways. This is quite true according to the Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT). However, RFT also points out that people may not be influenced by mass media. Based on research and previous theories that have pointed out that people have two dissimilar self-regulatory focuses, Higgins (2005) came up with RFT, which extends the hedonic principle that human beings tend to avoid pain and love pleasure. The theory thus differentiates two dissimilar orientations, promotion focus and prevention focus. RFT presumes that the survival of human beings is dependent on two basic needs: growth and security needs. The two different needs that individuals have to meet correspond to two different systems. First, people are happy when they meet their needs and two; they feel pain when their needs are not met. Higgins (2005) argued that some individuals approach pleasure by going for positive outcomes while others pursue pleasure by avoiding negative outcomes.

Based on the two goals of human beings, there are security-related control system and nurturance-related system. The security-related control system is prevention focus. According to this system, people tend to focus on the negative and thus, adjust their behavior as they try to avoid punishment. Nurturance-related is the promotion focus. According to this system, individuals promote positive adjustment of rewarded activity. Under the promotion focus, individuals tend to be pursuing their aspirations, ideal self, and hope. Further, they are always paying attention to self-realization and growth. This is because people with a promotion focus tend to pursue goals related to accomplishment and advancement. On the other hand, individual holding the prevention focus are usually conservative and complacent and thus, pursue goals related to protection and security. For these reasons, they usually pay attention to safety and responsibility and use avoidance strategies unlike those with promotion focus who rely on approach strategies. Higgins (2005) argued that promotion focus results from strong ideas, growth needs, and “taking or not” situation while prevention focus results from intense obligations, security needs, and “loss or not” situation (Cui & Ye, 2017). Due to prevention focus, individuals d avoid the influence of the mass media.

The self-regulatory focus determines particular emotional vulnerabilities thus influencing the kind of negative psychological situation that individuals perceive. In this way, it determines the intensity of a particular type of discomfort that those people experience. When an individual is experiencing a negative psychological situation, he/she will experience dejection-related emotions if he/she has a promotion focus. This is because they see events in terms of lack of positive outcomes. Alternatively, individuals with a prevention focus would experience more intense agitation-related emotions like fear because they see events as having negative outcomes. In addition, self-regulation focus shows that people experience unrelated positive emotions after they attain the goals they were aiming for. People with a promotion focus view success as the act of achieving positive outcomes that cause cheerfulness-related emotions like joy. On the other hand, individuals with prevention focus view success as avoidance of negative outcomes. These individuals experience highly quiescence-related emotions like relief (Adams, Faseur & Geuen, 2010).

There are a number of studies that have been done based on RFT. One of these studies is by Adams, Faseur & Geuens (2010) who studied the effectiveness of stop-smoking campaigns using people’s self-regulatory focus. The researchers took a sample of 226 young smokers and examined the persuasiveness of different emotional appeals (fear-relief versus sadness-joy) for dissimilar self-regulatory focuses, which were prevention focus and promotion focus. According to the findings of the study, young smokers with a promotion focus had a high chance of being persuaded by sadness-joy as compared to by fear-relief campaigns. Those individuals with a prevention focus were more persuaded by fear-relief campaigns other than sadness-joy campaigns.

A study by Hamstra, Bolderd Hamstra, Bolderdijk & Veldstra (2011) is another important study that utilizes regulatory focus. The three researchers were studying the link between regulatory focus and risk taking in everyday life. The study showed that promotion focus is related positively with risk taking while prevention focus is related negatively to risk taking. Based on the findings of their study, Hamstra, Bolderd Hamstra, Bolderdijk & Veldstra concluded that individuals who are promotion focused have a high chance to be involved in accidents. With this understanding, the researchers suggested that safety campaigns that are framed negatively do not necessarily cause people to be more concerned with their safety. For them, people who appeal to fear are those with prevention focus. The researchers noted that use of fear to appeal to such people is not difficult as they are more ready to receive the message (Hamstra, Bolderdijk & Veldstra, 2011).

Self-Regulatory Theory (SRT)

The views of the proponents of RTF seem to be refuted by the proponents of self-regulatory theory (SRT). According to SRT, human beings have an extensive ability to control their inner processes, states, and responses unlike other living creatures. People can therefore adapt their behaviors to different standards, resist their impulses, and change their behaviors in order to attain certain goals. The term “self-regulation” is usually used to mean efforts by human beings to change their desires, feelings, thoughts, and actions. Self-regulation therefore considers human beings as active agents and decision-makers. Human beings are not helpless spectators of events. Self-regulation has four components: motivation to meet standards, standard of pleasing behaviors, monitoring of thoughts and situations that come before the breaking standards, and willpower (Baumeister et al., 2007).

Normative Media Theory

Theodore Peterson, Fred Siebert, and Wilbur Schramm were the first people to propose normative theories in their book, Four Theories of the Press (Piontek, 2016). Even though SRT presumes that individuals have the ability to control processes, states, and responses, normative media theory postulates that people can be influenced into acting in a certain manner by the media. This means that even though they have the choice to determine what to listen or watch, the choice is already made for them, which means they have no control over it.

Changes in social and political landscapes lead to changes in one theory of the press to another. For instance, an authoritarian press system was replaced by the libertarian press system. Libertarian theory is a modification of the authoritarian press while Soviet-communist theory is a modification of the authoritarian theory. The changes are based on the changes in the society. Later theories are a modification of the four theories that deal with the limitation of earlier systems. In the political-ideological framework, new press system theories outline the duty of the press to serve the interests of the society (Firdaus, 2012). The four theories of the press as pointed out by Schramm, Siebert & Peterson (1956) include authoritarian theory, Soviet-communist theory, libertarian theory, and social responsibility theory (cited in Firdaus, 2012).

According to the authoritarian theory, the government controls the media for its own purpose. Therefore, it follows that the media broadcast or print content that do not undermine the government. An authoritarian press system represents only the culture, opinions, and ideology of the ruling power. Soviet-communist press system on the other hand is similar to the authoritarian press system. Just like the authoritarian press system, under the Soviet-communist press system, the government controls the media and uses it to spread propaganda and indoctrinate the citizens with the communist ideology. The government also uses the media to monitor the public mood (Firdaus, 2012). On the contrary, libertarian theory points out that the media is free from government control. According to this theory, everyone has a right to publish anything he/she wants without constraints. Therefore, under a libertarian press system, different opinions and ideas can be shared and people are free to read/listen or not to read/listen to any media content (Piontek, 2016). Furthermore, people are free to believe or not to believe the content they read or listen to. Lastly, social responsibility theory is a modification of the libertarian theory. Just like the libertarian theory, social responsibility theory promotes diversity and pluralism in the media. However, social responsibility theory encourages sharing of information that educate and promote social progress. The theory presumes that the media has a moral duty to defend social peace and stability and to ensure that citizens are informed (Firdaus, 2012; Piontek, 2016). These theories underscore the impact of the media on the perceptions of the public.

Chapter Summary

According to the SRT, human beings have an extensive ability to control their inner processes, states, and responses unlike other living creatures. However, it is possible to influence people to act or adopt certain characteristics. From the survey of literature, proponents of RTF consider it possible to influence people based on whether they have promotion focus or prevention focus. It is therefore possible to influence people through mass media as suggested by normative media theories. This has been shown by the various cases discussed in the literature review. For instance, in South Korea, two different perceptions about North Korea’s nuclear missiles exist owing to the creation of the media. The same is replicated in the US, China, and Japan. In England, just like in most European countries, the public’s perception of North Korea and its leaders is contemptous.

















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