|A poster for the supernatural fantasy television series, "Joseon Exorcist" / Courtesy of Lotte Cultureworks|
By Kim Jae-heun
Concerns are growing over TV series produced by local entertainment companies whose large shareholders are Chinese firms, after the YG Entertainment-produced "Joseon Exorcist" went off the air over accusations of distorting Korean history.
The supernatural history-based drama, "Joseon Exorcist," was co-produced by YG Studioplex, Crave Works and Lotte Cultureworks. YG Studioplex is a TV production company jointly established by YG Entertainment and Barami Bunda in April 2017, though the entertainment agency owns 99.09 percent of the production firm's shares.
What is causing the controversy is that two Chinese firms, Shanghai Fengying Business Consultant Partnership and Tencent Mobility, are the two largest shareholders in YG Entertainment after its founder Yang Hyun-suk, and they could have played an influence in the direction of the drama to favor a Chinese perspective of history.
"The allegation that our TV drama is produced with Chinese money is not true. 'Joseon Exorcist' was made entirely with domestic capital," a TV show producer said.
In 2016, Shanghai Fengying invested 42 billion won in acquiring 5.78 percent of YG Entertainment's common stocks. It also named Tang Xiaoming of Shanghai Fengying as a new outside director, with the aim of making advances into the Chinese music market.
Shanghai Fengying owns 100 percent of Weiying, China's top online ticketing platform.
Another Chinese IT giant, Tencent, is the third largest shareholder of YG Entertainment. In 2014, the entertainment agency signed a strategic partnership with Tencent's subsidiary, Tencent Mobility, which acquired 4.3 percent of YG Entertainment's stocks. Two years later, the music label received 100 billion won in investments from Tencent Group.
Entertainment industry experts say it is hard to prove with evidence that Chinese money is influencing the production process of local TV series, but there have been several cases where it seems likely.
JTBC's new TV drama, "Snowdrop," which casts Jisoo of YG Entertainment's popular girl band BLACKPINK as the lead actor, is already embroiled in a controversy for disparaging the 1987 Democracy Movement, by suggesting the involvement of North Korean spies.
People have already threatened to boycott the TV series.
Big Hit Entertainment and JYP Entertainment are also not free from Chinese investment influence.
Big Hit Entertainment's second-largest shareholder is Netmarble, a local mobile game developer, 17.66 percent of whose stocks are owned by Tencent Group.
JYP Entertainment also signed a strategic partnership with the same Chinese tech giant on March 24.
"Local entertainment businesses will likely face difficulties in receiving Chinese investment for a while, as anti-China sentiment is growing here," an industry source said.