South Korean President Park Geun-hye has always been a huge promoter of Hallyu. Her recent effort in that direction was to appoint actor Song Joong-ki as the honorary brand ambassador for South Korean tourism.
Recently, as a mark of appreciation, Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, his co-star from Descendants of the Sun, were presented the President’s Award for portraying the best of South Korea in the K-drama.
ALSO READ: Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-Kyo Join Hands To Re-Define K-Pop
Unfortunately, this year, President Park’s support for Hallyu has not achieved the desired outcome. Her support to deploy THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) has resulted in a blanket ban on South Korean celebrities in China, thereby affecting the country’s economy.
Now, to make matters worse, President Park is currently embroiled in another controversy, which has resulted in citizens asking her to step down. The South Korean leader is now accused of being influenced by her adviser Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of the founder of an obscure sect called the Church of Eternal Life and a longtime friend of Park. Choi has been indicted on charges of having manipulated President Park for personal financial gain, stated a report by Vox.
China hopes that if President Park steps down, she will be replaced by someone who will be friendly to China’s policies, a report by SCMP suggested. As a result, the Hallyu ban, which is now haunting South Korea, may hopefully be lifted.
Several celebrities like Song Joong-ki, Song hye-kyo, Kim Woo-bin, and Bae Suzy have directly suffered the wrath of China’s Hallyu ban. Even those already featured in Chinese advertisements or on their entertainment shows were either replaced or edited out.
A case in point is Chinese smartphone maker Vivo. Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng replaced Song Joong-ki, who, until July, was the face of Vivo.
Actress Jun Ji-hyun was another casualty after she was replaced as brand ambassador for a smartphone company by Chinese model, Angelababy.
A few months ago, a fan meeting in Beijing for Kim Woo-bin and Suzy Bae, stars of K-drama Uncontrollably Fond, was abruptly canceled.
The latest casualty is K-Pop group Black Pink, which has the most votes so far for the MAMA Rookie Award. However, YG Entertainment said that the girl band did not attend the event, as CJ E&M, which hosted the eighth Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), did not invite them properly. However, CJ E&M has refuted those claims.
“We have asked YG artists to join our festival in advance, but we received a reply that none of them will attend due to the schedule abroad. We respect their choice,” said the festival director Kang Hee-jeong, according to a report by SCMP.
In February, China’s ambassador to South Korea, Qiu Guohong, warned that THAAD could “destroy” the relationship between the two countries. Strangely, Beijing has not officially announced a ban on Korean entertainment and has denied any clampdown.
“I have never heard about any restriction on the ROK (Republic of Korea), and the Chinese side is always positive to people-to-people and cultural exchanges with the country,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, in November.
According to Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Washington DC-based Council on Foreign Relations, while K-Pop represented only a fraction of South Korea’s huge trade relationship with China, any targeting of cultural exports had potentially “psychological reverberations,” a report by The Telegraph stated.
“THAAD is a focal point for Chinese rhetoric and they do need to point to something as a form of retaliation in order to project the idea to the South Korean side that they’re incurring costs,” he said.
[Featured Image by Ahn Young-joon/AP Images]