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Korean Entertainment Faces Ban in China

Causes of the friction could be geopolitical, but are more likely cultural

shanghai skyline China Placeholder
Yang Wei Chen/Shutterstock

In recent weeks, Korean talent was removed from Chinese television drama productions, and K-pop stars were blurred or edited out on Chinese variety shows. Fan events and concerts in China were canceled. Korean producers told Variety that their Chinese partners have received verbal notices from China’s Film Bureau regarding possible restrictions on Korea-China co-productions.

Some sources say these actions are China’s retaliation against South Korea for agreeing to the deployment of a missile defense system in cooperation with the United States, which is challenging China’s growing power in the Eastern Pacific. Others assume the ban is a protectionist measure against the overwhelming success of Korean content in China.

Regardless of the reason, a ban would hurt the financial interests of Korean companies. K-pop powerhouses like SM and YG have already seen their stock values decline sharply on the stock exchange.

“[A ban] would have a major impact on TV drama productions,” a Korean distributor told Variety, because pre-sale financing from Chinese money would dry up.

Meanwhile, if films co-produced by Korean companies are denied co-production status in China, they would be subjected to the country’s restrictive foreign film quota. But a ban is unlikely to be formally announced as the two nations signed a bilateral co-production treaty just two years ago.

Pictured above: Shanghai