China officially denies rumored ban on S.Korean pop stars

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/23 20:08:39

South Korean singer Hwang Chi-yeul Photo: ICInset: A screenshot of Saturday's <em>If You Are the One</em>, in which the participant's nationality has been blurred

Inset: A screenshot of Saturday's If You Are the One, in which the participant's nationality has been blurred

South Korean singer Hwang Chi-yeul Photo: ICInset: A screenshot of Saturday's <em>If You Are the One</em>, in which the participant's nationality has been blurred

South Korean singer Hwang Chi-yeul Photo: IC


Rumors that China's media watchdog has expanded an unofficial ban restricting the broadcast of South Korean TV shows in the Chinese mainland have increased recently.

While the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) has not made any official announcements, recent months have witnessed the abrupt editing out or blurring of South Korean stars' appearances in Chinese shows and a declining number of K-pop performances in the mainland.

According to a Monday report on South Korea's Joongang Daily, the English version of one of the country's largest newspaper Joongang Ilbo, sources in China indicate that this ban has been secretly expanded to not only cover South Korean TV and film works, and "Chinese remakes of South Korean content," but also commercial advertisements featuring South Korean stars.

To date the reasons behind these changes remain unclear.

However, during a Monday press conference, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang commented on the changes, "I have never heard about any restrictions on the ROK."

"China remains positive to people-to-people and cultural exchanges with the ROK. However, I believe you can all understand that such kind of exchanges should be based on public support," Geng noted.

Not-so-subtle censorship

It caused quite a stir when Yoo In-na, the South Korean actress who appeared on the promotional posters for Chinese TV series Shuttle Love Millennium 2 as a major supporting role, was replaced by Taiwan actress Puff Kuo in late August. The reason for the change has remained unknown as even Yoo has not commented on her departure.

In August, Kpopstarz, a US-based South Korean pop culture news portal, posted on Sina Weibo a list of 53 TV shows involving South Korean actors or actresses being shot in China this year that might be delayed or see South Korean cast members replaced with Chinese stars. The Global Times has confirmed that since the list was published at least four of the 53 have seen delays or replacements.

Other evidence of a ban has been more obvious.

In Saturday's episode of Jiangsu Satellite TV's dating show If You Are the One, the nationality of male participant No.12 was mysteriously blurred out. A look at this participant's Sina Weibo account identifies him as Kim Dong-woo, a South Korean citizen.

Another better-known example involves South Korean singer Hwang Chi-yeul's abrupt departure from Hunan Satellite TV's reality show Where Are We Going, Dad?.

On Monday, Hong Kong actor Jacky Heung announced on Sina Weibo that he would be replacing Hwang on the show. His post was reposted by the show's official Sina Weibo account, though neither Hwang nor Hunan Satellite TV has yet to comment.

When it comes to live performances involving South Korean stars, approvals seem to have stagnated since September, according to data from the commercial performance approval information platform on the official website of China's Ministry of Culture. When one enters the keyword hanguo (South Korea) in the search bar, the last approval for a South Korean performance to appear is dated September 26.

Insider voices

It's unclear how these changes will impact the entertainment industry.

"Yes, we've received the notice about the ban, but only through word of mouth," a reality show program producer who wished to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"We were told to avoid bringing in South Korean stars and production teams when producing new programs," she added.

Employees at major TV stations including Beijing Satellite TV and Jiangsu Satellite TV revealed in an interview with tmtpost.com, an online media platform, on Tuesday that they  were also told to stop broadcast of ads with South Korean stars.

They added that they were still discussing how to handle the situation.

The impact on online streaming platforms seems to be minimal.

Luo Ming, vice director of the R&D section belonging to Tencent Video's Variety Show Department, told the Global Times on Wednesday that he has not yet received any form of "notice" concerning a ban.

Official response

While official channels have not acknowledged a ban, that has not kept speculation at bay.

Recent years has seen SAPPRFT step up regulation of imported foreign TV shows. This has led to many US shows being taken down from Chinese streaming platforms until they attain approval through official channels. It's possible that recent moves indicated that it's now South Korea's turn to get in line with new regulations.

Others suspect the changes may be political.

"The Chinese government has toughened its regulations on Korean pop culture since last month, [Yonhap News Agency] sources related to the matter said Tuesday, in apparent retaliation against South Korea's decision to deploy an advanced US missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula," South Korea's Yonhap News Agency wrote in a report on Tuesday.

However, the reason might not be so political.

As China's TV show production has matured, recent years have seen the appeal of South Korean dramas decline. This is in part due to the fact that Chinese audiences now have access to a wider variety of shows and so no longer need to depend on South Korean shows, which many are now finding too clichéd, said a media commentator, who preferred to remain unnamed.


Newspaper headline: China’s cultural sanction?


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