China blocks streaming of K-dramas in apparent retaliation against Thaad deployment

Korean entertainment to have a major impact on TV drama productions and hugely affect the financial interests of the Korean companies.

Kim Woo Bin
Still from KBS2's Uncontrollably Fond starring Kim Woo Bin and Suzy Bae Facebook/KimWooBin

China has finally blocked all access to the latest South Korean music and dramas on the country's online video sharing platforms following an order passed by the authorities, Yonhap news agency cited sources as saying on Sunday. This latest move is an apparent retaliation against Seoul's move to deploy an advanced US missile defence system.

The agency reported that a website uploading South Korean dramas has announced on its Weibo social media account that it would stop updating video clips of South Korean entertainment programmes for the time being. "Everybody should be aware of the reason for this," the post read.

Last July, China had strongly opposed South Korea's decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery in South Korea to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. It said the high-tech system could affect its growing power in the Eastern Pacific.

Since October, Chinese national media watchdog told the television stations in the Guangdong province that approvals will not be granted for Chinese entertainment programmes featuring South Korean stars.

"China has made regional satellite TV broadcasters suspend the airing of South Korean TV programs and give no permission for Korean stars to appear on Chinese TV shows," an industry source told Yonhap.

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.

The South Korean TV shows have been enjoying huge popularity on Chinese online video sharing platforms from a long time. According to a South Korean culture promotion agency, the South Korean romantic drama "Uncontrollably Fond" received more than 4.1 billion views on China's largest online video portal Youku as of end-2016.

"Descendants of the Sun", is another popular Korean drama that chalked up more than 4.4 billion view count when it was aired via iQIYI, another online video service.

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. "Blocking access to streaming services is feared to deal a blow to (the Korean industry)," a South Korean industry official said.