The recent coverage and online streaming by Chinese media of the wedding of Korean stars Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo and girl group Mamamoo's recording for a Chinese TV music program have raised the possibility that China has eased the ban on "hallyu" or Korean Wave contents.
South Korea and China's bilateral relations have soured since last year when the South Korean government deployed the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to thwart any missile launch by hostile state North Korea.
But China viewed THAAD as an interference to its own defense system. Since then, China has barred K-pop and Korean artists from performing and appearing in shows and events in the country. It has banned the showing of Korean dramas and other hallyu content.
South Korea's tourism industry plunged as the number of Chinese tourists, the main source of revenue for Korean tourism-related businesses, has dwindled since last year.
Tourism officials, whose programs were mainly catered to Chinese tourists, tried to diversify their strategies by luring tourists from Southeast Asia and other regions.
Months ago, Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced that it would give limited visa-entry privileges to certain tourists from Southeast Asia including the Philippines but the plan has not been implemented.
But last October 31, Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that South Korea and China have agreed to normalize relations.
"The two sides attached great importance to the Korea-China relationship and decided to push for the further development of the strategic cooperative partnership," MOFA said. "Both shared the view that strengthening exchanges and cooperation between Korea and China serves their common interests, and they agreed to expeditiously bring exchanges and cooperation in all areas back onto a normal track."
Korean girl group Mamamoo went to China this week to record for a Chinese TV music show, a sign that China is allowing Korean stars to perform in the country.
"We've confirmed that Mamamoo arrived in China. It is also correct that the team arrived to film a music show," Yonhap News quoted a source.
Some small Chinese video platforms are reportedly planning to buy and stream Korean TV shows.
"We're aware that some small online video services have contacted Korean companies to resume imports of TV shows. I also foresee some joint Korean-Chinese projects to resume in the near future," said another source.
The state-owned Chinese TV channel CCTV even aired a special segment on the PyeongChang Olympics that will be held in Korea next year.
"Since the THAAD row, CCTV has never run a program on either PyeongChang or South Korea. Airing of the program on Pyeongchang clearly reflects the changing mood (regarding South Korea) in China," a South Korean source in Beijing told Yonhap News.