|▲ THAAD has had a overall impact on our country.|
There is an old Korean proverb that says, ‘When China sneezes, Korea catches a cold.’ What this means is that our economies are so entwined, that our relationship with China directly impacts the Korean economy. The recent decision to adopt the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system (THAAD) has been a hot topic between our nations and has had a direct impact on our economy.
THAAD is a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles, in their terminal phase, using a hit-to-kill approach. The system was adopted in the face of heightened fears of a possible nuclear missile strike by North Korea. However, THAAD’s success is based on its ability to detect imminent threats and address them at a safe distance. Consequently, its radars are far reaching, resulting in raised concern levels from our trading partner China, who feel this increased surveillance is a threat to their national security. They are well aware of the capabilities of this system and that once in place, the US will be able to monitor some districts in China as well as their intended target, North Korea. China’s opposition to THAAD is well documented and Korea’s decision to employ the use of this defense system has affected our culture, trade, and tourism industries as well as related stock prices. Of these areas, the cultural industry has suffered the most significant impact. The Korean wave is being halted in China because of the implementation of THAAD. Post announcement, rumors quickly circulated that the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) issued unofficial guidelines to their main broadcasting stations that would help halt the so called ‘Korean Wave’. The rumor was further substantiated when Korea’s Hallyu, who was due to appear in a Chinese broadcast, saw her performance cancelled, and the star’s role in a film jointly produced by the Chinese and Korean governments was dropped from the project.
While the guidelines remain technically unofficial, there have been many instances where Korean stars were dropped from Chinese broadcasts in movies, music, and TV shows. This proves Chinese broadcasters are supporting the unofficial guidelines by prohibiting appearances by Korean stars in their telecasts. This has many in the Korean culture industry worried about the future.
Hwang Chi-yeol, a Korean national who reached stardom thanks to a Chinese talent seeking TV show called ‘I am a singer’, had his face blotted out by a camera blur during the show ‘Challenger’s League’ an entertainment program that airs on the Chinese network ZJSTV. The star even had his role in the program reduced dramatically. But it isn’t only emerging stars that are seeing their promotional spots disappear. World famous PSY also felt the cold shoulder from our Chinese neighbor. Korean stars such as PSY, VIXX, iKON, and MONSTA X who often appear in talent contest programs aired by the network TVSOU had their parts entirely deleted from the August 21, 2016 episode. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for this cultural lockout.
The Korean entertainment industry is concerned about the impact the decision to use THAAD is having on their economy. However, Korea is no stranger to these cultural blockades by China. In protest of another political decision that took place in 2012, china responded by ending investment in the cultural industry, postponing the casting of Korean actors in Chinese dramas, and dropping some completely from the series, even after they had already settled in to the country for work. While some may think consumer demand would help bring an end to the cultural lockout, the Chinese government can find ways around it. Despite the popularity of Korean dramas or other entertainment show, local broadcasters can limit the number of times a program is aired, or rebroadcast or they can place production restraints on programs in development or already on the air. For example, the masterpiece drama, ‘Saimdang; Diary of Light’ was supposed to be broadcast in three countries, Korea, China and Japan, this coming October. However, it seems now that bureaucratic delays are intentionally blocking the production team from gaining the necessary permission from China’s local government for the simultaneous broadcast. As a result, stock prices related to the entertainment industry plummeted. SM Entertainment, one of the top entertainment agencies in Korea, lost 10,000 won per share after the decision to employ the use of THAAD was announced.
To get a better sense of the current mood in China towards Korea, The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed a representative of the Korea Culture & Content Agency and some Chinese international students. First the DKH asked the government agency representative who they believed was the most significant consumer of Korean cultural products. “China is the most actively interactive country with us, followed by Japan. Just looking at China, they have one of the largest public culture business markets in the worlds, and Korea and China have traditionally depended upon each other to make this industry grow,” she said. DKH then asked how real the damages to the industry have been so far. “We haven’t suffered any disadvantages yet. We are still planning to hold a forum on Chinese culture in conjunction with the Chinese government and with their full support. Our job isn’t to diffuse tension, but rather like you we always check the news and look for information that may impact us continuously,” she answered.
The DKH also interviewed Chinese exchange student Qui Zhifeng (Junior, Dept. of Public Administration) According to him; Chinese people regard Korea’s decision to employ THAAD as a severe threat to their national defense. Therefore, they think China will take measures that will decrease their neutrality. As for the evidence that points to a blacklisting of Korean stars from Chinese broadcast he said, “I can’t tell you which cases resulted from government instructions to block the use of Korean stars, but they seem to have selected the ones that would make the greatest impact, putting pressure on Korea using economic means.” The DKH asked him about the prospect of the Korean Wave continuing in China. He answered, “I think the Korean wave will continue to exist, however, the craze might lessen up to some degree. I hope Korea and China can find a way to maintain an amicable relationship.” The interview ended on that note.
It’s impossible to pretend that nothing has changed. It is true that some decisions were made that disappointed our trading partner, and caused them to worry about their own national security, but it doesn’t mean that we should be looked upon as the enemy and discriminated against in the entertainment and culture market.
In the past, the strong relationship between our two nations saw the content and cultural industry business developing at a rapid rate and demand for Korean content continually rising. Therefore, we should be concerned about their responses to our nation’s decision to adopt THAAD and be sensitive to their position. We should however, remain hesitant to condemn recent actions on their as deliberate, when they have yet to openly admit these decisions were related to our THAAD policy. Rather than focusing on what has happened, we need to concern ourselves with finding a means to improve our faltering relationship because we need each other to succeed.
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