SEOUL • South Korea's Foreign Minister has cautioned against escalating a missile-defence row with China that has fuelled combative editorials in Beijing's state media and an apparent backlash against Korean television and pop stars.
"Whenever difficulties and challenges arise in South Korea-China relations... we should not overreact," Mr Yun Byung Se said in a briefing to local reporters.
The dispute has its roots in the announcement last month that South Korea would deploy a sophisticated United States anti-missile system to counter the growing threat from North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
China condemned the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system as a move against its own national security interests and a threat to regional stability.
In a strongly worded editorial published on Thursday, the People's Daily warned Seoul of the potentially costly "domino effect" of its decision.
In any conflict between China and the US, "South Korea will inevitably be the first target", the newspaper said.
China is South Korea's largest trading partner and accounts for a quarter of its exports. It is also a key market for popular South Korean entertainment exports like K-pop and K-dramas, which seem to be the initial targets of a gathering anti-Thaad backlash in China.
A "fan meeting" scheduled for this weekend in Beijing with the stars of a popular Korean drama series, Kim Woo Bin and Bae Suzy of KBS drama Uncontrollably Fond, was abruptly cancelled on Wednesday. "They said they have to put off the event indefinitely for reasons that are beyond their control and they asked for our understanding," said Mr Lee Hyun Joo, an official with the Korean company that produced the drama.
An appearance by Korean boyband Snuper on a Chinese TV music show was also cancelled at the last minute.
"The show itself will go on and it's just Snuper who won't be performing," said a spokesman for the band's agency, Widmay Entertainment.
"We are trying to determine the reason," she added.
Foreign Minister Yun said the government in Seoul was keeping a "close watch" on the Chinese media reaction to Thaad and what he described as "other measures" being taken in China.
"But we should not jump to any conclusions," Mr Yun said, promising further diplomatic efforts to assuage Beijing's concerns over the system's deployment.
The Korea International Trade Association, an influential business lobby group, has identified 26 measures already put in place by China that hurt its members.
Examples of barriers cited by the trade association include costly examinations for licences to sell some cosmetics that can take up to a year to complete. Quarantine and hygiene issues held up South Korean efforts to sell traditional Samgyetang chicken soup to China for 10 years, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
Thaad has also been the subject of domestic protests, particularly by those living in the rural county of Seongju where the first battery will be installed.
Residents say the system's powerful radar poses health and environmental hazards and argue that its presence will make them a key military target.
President Park Geun Hye has said that the government will try to find an alternative site in Seongju to host the system. It is set to be deployed by the end of next year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG