Cultural exchanges between China and S.Korea warming up but Yoon Suk-yeol must tread carefully: experts
The key to good relations
Published: Mar 17, 2022 01:44 AM
Poster of the film <em>Oh! My Gran</em> Photo: Weibo

Poster of the film Oh! My Gran Photo: Weibo

A person walks past the exhibition between China and South Korea in Beijing featuring mascots from the Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on January 27, 2022. 
Photo: VCG

A person walks past the exhibition between China and South Korea in Beijing featuring mascots from the Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on January 27, 2022. Photo: VCG

As more South Korean entertainment products, such as the film Oh! My Gran and the TV series Prison Playbook, have been making their way to Chinese cinemas and streaming platforms over the past few months, Chinese experts see this as a sign that cultural exchanges between China and South Korea are warming up. However, there are also destabilizing factors that could potentially interrupt this warming trend such as newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who advocated for the expanded deployment of the THAAD defense system during the elections.

"Yoon's political decisions might directly influence the current optimistic trend in cultural exchanges between the two countries," Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"So, he should be really careful about the following plans," Lü added.

This view was advocated by other Chinese experts including Shi Wenxue, a cultural critic based in Beijing, and echoes sentiment among South Korean media outlets. 

To mark the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries, a China-South Korea Cultural Exchange Year was jointly launched by both countries in 2021, during which five South Korean TV series and movies were scheduled for release in China after years of absence. 

Among them, popular hit Something in the Rain was the first South Korean TV show to pass the China's National Radio and Television Administration review process since 2017. The move was seen by some South Korean media outlets as "a U-turn appearing between the cultural exchanges during the past two Exchange Years." 

The country's main daily business publication, the Maeil Business Newspaper, said that the exportation of South Korea's cultural products to China "is expected to be further loosened in the following years."

Yet speculation also rises among South Korean media that Yoon and his advocacy of the THAAD deployment may greatly impede this trend and could bring a "devastating effect over communications in culture and travel businesses."

Experts told the Global Times that the South Korean government should be aware that interactions between people around the world can be affected by the political decisions of those people's governments, and so Yoon should be really "careful about his decisions."

"Policy can greatly affect cultural communications between the peoples of the two countries. Ever since China and South Korea established the diplomatic relations in 1992, their rapid development had been reflected in culture, like K-pop music's influence in China. But with Seoul's decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system, cultural communication between the two sides has declined more than ever," Lü said.

"Entertainment is the leading industry in South Korea and it has quite an influence all over the world. We hope that better communication can be achieved as often as possible. But it also depends on the policies that the new South Korean president and his administration adopt toward China," Lü added.

Chinese experts also emphasized that cooperation between the peoples of the two countries have received continual support. 

Shi noted that South Korean filmmakers have always had opportunities to work with Chinese counterparts, like in Director Zhang Yimou's 2021 film Cliff Walkers, where the action choreographer was from South Korea.