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EDChina's ban on hallyu

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China has been denying news reports that it has slapped a ban on Korean pop culture, but no Korean entertainer has obtained Beijing's permission to perform in the neighboring country since October.

Only a few Korean stars have been able to perform every month amid rumors about Beijing's regulations on hallyu, or the Korean wave, even after South Korea decided to host a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in July. Since October, however, not a single South Korean entertainer has performed in China.

Earlier this week, the Chinese government reportedly ordered local broadcasters not to air Korean dramas, movies or entertainment shows. News coverage of Korean celebrities and reviews of Korean films have also disappeared from Chinese TV and newspapers. In fact, Song Joong-ki, the male lead in the hit TV drama "Descendants of the Sun," has been affected by China's anti-hallyu measures as he was replaced by a Chinese actor in an ad for a Chinese smartphone brand.

As a consequence of China's ban on Korean cultural imports, shares of Korea's major management agencies and cosmetics companies popular in China plunged on Monday.

China has been protesting the deployment of the anti-missile system, arguing it can undermine regional peace and stability. Beijing's antagonism toward Seoul could worsen as South Korea and Japan signed a pact to share military intelligence Wednesday.

However, China's apparent move to erect barriers on hallyu is sheer nonsense, given that THAAD is Seoul's minimal defense measure to counter North Korea's mounting nuclear and missile threats.

Also, one cannot help but call into question China's intentions to control people's cultural tastes with administrative red tape. Chinese authorities need to recall how much Korea's pop content has contributed to boosting mutual understanding.

What is disturbing is whether our government has been responding to the hallyu crisis effectively at a time when the administration is in limbo amid the Choi Soon-sil scandal.

It's urgent to size up the magnitude of China's ban on Korean pop culture. If true, our authorities will have to persuade their Chinese counterparts — through incessant dialogue — that diplomacy must be separate from cultural exchanges.


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