China bans Korean drama, movies, and variety shows 'in retaliation against Thaad deployment'

Authorities say those dramas that have already been approved will continue to be aired.

Descendent of the Sun: Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo
Still from the hit Korean series Descendant of the Sun. Facebook/Descendant of the Sun

China will block South Korean movies, dramas and variety shows following an order passed by the authorities, Chinese media reported. The Chinese national media watchdog has told television stations in the Guangdong province that approvals will not be granted for programmes featuring South Korean stars. But dramas that have already been approved will continue to be aired.

"They told us to postpone any plans for new programmes that involve South Korean stars or copyright for South Korean TV shows," a source told South China Morning Post. "They said we would not get approval, even if we made such plans," the source added.

According to the source, the ban order was passed verbally by the officials from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Recently, several K-pop stars were reportedly blurred or edited out on Chinese variety shows and a few Korean talents were also removed from Chinese television drama productions. Fan events and concerts which were scheduled to be held in China were also canceled.

Another source revealed that it was "almost impossible" to get approval for content from the Chinese regulators. "We haven't seen any written bans from the administration, but people in the industry are quite worried and many have said they would avoid taking on any work that involves South Korean dramas recently," she said.

Meanwhile, South Korean media interpreted the crackdown as a fallout of Seoul's decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which is supplied by the United States.

"The ban is viewed as retaliation against Korea's decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system," Korea Times said.

The sophisticated system, built by Lockheed Martin Corp along with the associated AN/TPY-2 tracking radar built by Raytheon, can fire anti-ballistic missiles targeting objects inside or outside the Earth's atmosphere. The US and South Korea say Thaad will reinforce the country's security against in the event of an attack by North Korea.

But China is wary of the missile shield's highly advanced radar and surveillance capabilities. The Pentagon said earlier this month it will deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea as quickly as possible, a move that will further deteriorate relations with China.

China had strongly opposed the deployment of THAAD as the high-tech system could affect its growing power in the Eastern Pacific. This ban on Korean entertainment would surely have a major impact on TV drama productions and hugely affect the financial interests of the Korean companies.