Chinese video platforms open further to S.Korean films and TV shows
Warming trend
Published: Nov 24, 2022 09:47 PM
Promotional materials <em>for Hotel by the River</em> Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional materials for Hotel by the River Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Some Chinese movie lovers who are fond of South Korean director Hong Sang-soo were pleasantly surprised earlier in November to learn that his film Hotel by the River was now streaming on Chinese video platforms.

Besides this film, which has a 7.3/10 rating on Chinese media review platform Douban, more than 10 popular South Korean TV dramas have been broadcasting on several Chinese streaming platforms including Youku and Tencent since early 2022.

Various Chinese platforms, be they cinemas or online streaming platforms, have become more welcoming to South Korean films and TV shows and dozens of related works have recently been launched in the Chinese mainland. This has been seen by industry insiders in both countries as a positive trend toward warming cultural exchanges.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China has imported and distributed many South Korean movies and TV dramas since 2021, adding that there has never been a so-called ban on South Korean entertainment in China, which is open to cultural and people-to-people exchanges with South Korea.

According to South Korean media outlets, South Korea has also viewed the increase in releases in China as a sign of warming cultural exchanges between the two countries and one of results of the bilateral meeting of the presidents of the two countries on the margins of the G20 Summit.

Promotional material for <em>Itaewon Class</em>  Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional material for Itaewon Class Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Good start

An old poet is staying at a riverside hotel where he is visited by his two long-lost sons. 

A young woman, betrayed by a man she lives with, also checks into the hotel. For support, she asks a friend to accompany her. People just stare at each other during their days at the hotel by the river and life is hard for everyone, seemingly going on endlessly every day.

This is the story of Hong's 2018 film, which has gotten great reviews from Chinese audiences who praised the movie for seriously debating issues of life and death.

The movie was released on Tencent, one of China's major video platforms, at the beginning of November. And it is not alone; prior to the release, some South Korean TV dramas well-known among young Chinese audiences such as Itaewon Class, Prison Playbook and Pretty Sister Who Buys Me Food have been launched on different platforms such as Bilibili and iQIYI.

Besides online streaming platforms, in December 2021, the comedy movie Oh! My Gran became the first South Korean film screened in the Chinese mainland theaters in six years, winning great word of mouth among moviegoers. 

The release of the film was seen by industry insiders as a good start for renewed cultural exchanges between the two neighbors.

According to Chinese film critics, while the movie was not a hit in South Korea, it was selected to enter the Chinese market due to its heartwarming story, which provokes audiences to think about family relationships and feelings.

According to South Korean media reports, industry insiders in the country have also responded positively to the increased interactions between the two countries, noting that if the export of cultural products to China expands in the future, South Korean drama producers will be the first to benefit as many South Korean cultural companies are facing a drop in profits following a decrease in the number of dramas being streamed on the internet.

"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," Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Future opportunities

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao refuted allegations of the existence of a "restriction" policy on South Korean entertainment and said that China is ready to work with South Korea to follow through on the important common understandings of the two presidents and deepen bilateral ties.

Chinese netizens actively reacted to the news of the movie release, reported by South Korean media on Tuesday, with excitement, causing it to become one of the hot trending topics on Sina Weibo that same day. Many of them said that they are looking forward to seeing more high-quality works be exchanged between the two countries.

Besides commercial films and TV shows, many other cultural activities jointly held by the two countries have been held recently. 

The 8th Chinese-Korean Share Your Dream Short Film Festival, jointly held by Chinese and South Korean cultural institutes, opened in August, with five works bagging major awards after a three-month submission and selection process.

From the moment the submission period began, the short film festival received positive responses from young film creators in both countries. 

The organizing committee received more than 700 short films during the three months and 20 works entered the final round.

Lei Zhilong, a well-known scriptwriter, director and reviewing committee member, attended the awards ceremony, where he said that he could read younger filmmakers' thoughts by appreciating their works.

"We face language and cultural differences, but movies take us across those obstacles. I believe the film industry of the two countries will be more prosperous in the future," Lei noted.