Thaad row: China blocks streaming of Korean dramas

SEOUL • China has blocked streaming of the latest South Korean music and dramas on its online video-sharing platforms, reported Yonhap news agency yesterday.

The move is widely seen as a continuation of retaliatory actions against South Korea for its planned deployment of an advanced United States missile defence system.

A website that uploads South Korean dramas said on its social media account on Weibo 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 said.

China has voiced strong opposition to Seoul's decision in July last year to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) battery to counter nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

Beijing said the move would hamper its security interests.

Since October last year, it has stopped South Korean pop stars from appearing on Chinese entertainment programmes, Yonhap cited an industry source as saying.

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

South Korean TV programmes have enjoyed huge popularity on Chinese online video-sharing platforms. The romantic drama Uncontrollably Fond, for instance, had chalked up more than 4.1 billion views on China's largest online video portal, Youku, as of the end of last year, according to a South Korean culture promotion agency.

The tally is close to the 4.4 billion views garnered by Descendants Of The Sun, aired via iQIYI, also an online video service.

A South Korean industry official said China's move to block these online streaming services could eventually hurt K-pop's reach there. "Blocking access to streaming services is feared to deal a blow to (the Korean industry)."

Last week, Xinhua news agency published an editorial warning Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, against approving a land swop deal that would allow the South Korean government to site the Thaad battery on one of its golf courses.

Thaad is a threat to regional security and stability, Xinhua said in the English-language commentary, adding that Lotte was "one decision away from becoming an accessory to the act".

If Lotte agrees to the land swop deal, the South Korean and US governments would hasten the planned deployment, Xinhua said on Feb 19.

"By association, Lotte will hurt the Chinese people and the consequences could be severe," the agency noted. "The Chinese people will not support a company complicit in damaging China's interests."

Lotte should defer or reject the deal, forcing the South Korean government to review the feasibility of the deployment, Xinhua added. "One misjudged step could have severe consequences."

The editorial came soon after Lotte said earlier this month that the Chinese authorities had halted work at the company's multibillion-dollar real estate project in Shenyang city in Liaoning province following a fire inspection.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Thaad row: China blocks streaming of Korean dramas'. Print Edition | Subscribe