China Blocks Korean Entertainment on Streaming Platforms Over THAAD Row

Courtesy of KBS
Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo in Descendants of the Sun. 

According to reports out of Korea, Chinese audiences won’t be able to watch South Korean television shows on streaming services anytime soon, due to an ongoing political dispute disrupting ties between the two countries.

Over the weekend, Korean news outlet Yonhap reported that China has blocked videos of South Korean music and television dramas from streaming services. The move came as part of continued economic backlash by the Chinese government in response to South Korea deploying the United States' Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system near Seoul.

South Korea is stationing the anti-ballistic missile system on its soil as a deterrent against North Korea, but China objects to THAAD, on the grounds of its ability to threaten Chinese territorial security, while simultaneously raising tension between the Koreas.

Many Chinese streaming services have stopped updating video clips of South Korean entertainment. According to Yonhap, one website posted on its social media account that “everybody should be aware of the reason for this,” referencing the Chinese government’s toughened stance on Korean cultural imports.

South Korea television dramas and variety shows are extremely popular in China, with popular shows garnering billions of views on Chinese streaming sites and reality series, like Running Mangetting remade by China. The widely popular 2016 drama Descendants of the Sun was viewed over 4 billion times on Chinese website iQIYI, and resulted in China’s Ministry of Public Security issuing warnings about the danger of watching too many Korean dramas.

Blocking access to South Korean streamed content comes after months of increasing economic retaliation by Beijing. In August, shortly after South Korea announced plans to deploy THAAD, the New York Times reported that K-pop boy band EXO had several concerts in China canceled. Several actors were also unable to hold events and the Times reported that joint Chinese-Korean television projects were put on hold.  

The same month, China's official press agency Xinhua cited a survey that claimed over four-fifths of China's population would support a ban of South Korean entertainers if the government proposed one. “It reflects Chinese placing love for their home country before popularity of entertainment stars,” wrote Xinhua.

As South Korea moved forward with THAAD, China continued to move against imports. In January, the Korea Times reported that the rejection of 19 Korean cosmetic "K-Beauty" products by Chinese authorities was part of China's politically-oriented financial response to South Korea’s actions. The same month, China canceled 3 performances by Grammy award-winning soprano Sumi Jo.

Since the summer, SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment, Korea's largest K-pop agencies, saw their stock prices plummet to their lowest point in five years. Both companies have made broad attempts to enter international markets and have held multiple concerts in China. SM in particular has focused on Chinese audiences: Multiple singers signed to the agency are Chinese or of Chinese descent, such as f(x)’s members Victoria and Amber, while both Super Junior and EXO have formed subunits that release Mandarin-language music, and promote primarily in China.    

Along with the external political crisis wreaking havoc on Korea’s arts and entertainment, South Korea is still dealing with a presidential impeachment trial and a blacklist that restricted over 10,000 Korean artists.


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