Did China begin to retaliate on South Korea for its decision for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system? On the surface, China’s backlash against South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD system on its soil is setting off sanctions against South Korean cultural contents. High barriers are facing South Korean local governments’ projects and exchanges and cooperation between the Chinese and Korean governments as well as South Korean contents business operators. Even though there remains a diplomatic event called the “G20 Meeting,” it is hardly expected that South Korea will make an improvement to the situation through the meeting.
After the decision on the missile defense system, a tension was ratcheted up among South Korean broadcast contents producers and began to crystallize through “believe it or not” flyers going around in the securities industry. The flyers said that China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) in charge of media such as newspapers, broadcast and films ordered Chinese broadcasters to stop airing Korean cultural contents and showing South Korean entertainers in protest against the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea. Some reporters wrote articles based on the rumor and anxieties gripped South Korean contents business operators that made a foray into the Chinese contents market.
The rumor was never verified. The homepage of the SARFT did not have any official notice about the rumor. But circumstantial evidence began to emerge, making people believe that the Chinese government virtually gave them an order. What is worse, unprecedentedly, some local Chinese officials rejected South Korean government officials’ visit to them.
On July 28, Kim Jae-hong, the vice chairman of the Korea Communications Commission was planning to visit officials in Jiangsu Province, China for exchanges of Korean cultural contents but his visit was rejected in China. Even though Kim and his entourage checked the schedule shortly before their departure, the Chinese side suddenly cancelled the scheduled meeting two days prior to it, saying, “We have an emergency meeting in Beijing.” According to Kim and his entourage, the Chinese side gave the cold shoulder to them throughout their visit.
“I heard that the deployment of the THAAD system may delay airing our program in China,” said a Korean broadcast contents producer that has produced TV programs with a Chinese broadcasting station. “We were planning to jointly produce a program with the Chinese broadcasting station. So I asked the Chinese broadcasting station about when to sign the agreement since I had to make a production schedule,” said a representative of the Korean production. “But they told me, ‘The THAAD issue may postpone making program schedules. Now it is not easy to jointly produce a program with a South Korean side. We have to wait and see now.’”
Korean local governments’ exchanges with China were put on hold, too. Gangwon Province in South Korea has had a set for the TV show “Descendants of the Sun” so the Gangwon Provincial Government was planning to make a program to publicize tourism attractions in the province such as Wonju and Sokcho. But production of the program was temporarily put off by the request of the Chinese side. Gangwon Province also planned to produce a promotional video for the province through a meeting of Chinese power bloggers and Korean cultural stars. The Chinese side cancelled it as well. Tsingtao City of China told Daegu City that they will not take part in Daegu’s Chicken and Beer Festival.
Some experts assumed that the Chinese government did not directly ordered Chinese broadcasters to shun South Korean contents but Chinese broadcasters are keenly considering the Chinese government’s responses to the installation of the missile defense system in South Korea before deciding to produce or air Korean cultural contents.
“The SARFT regulated foreign programs in China through guidelines. But we cannot confirm unofficial stories,” said a representative of the Korea Communications Commission. “I have never heard that the Chinese government blocked Korean entertainers from appearing on Chinese TV or banned Korean cultural programs in China.”
“Chinese contents producers are in a mood to take a lukewarm attitude about Korean cultural contents while taking into account the Chinese government’s strong posture against the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea,” said a representative of a South Korean broadcasting company who understood situations in China well.