SEOUL, March 6 (Korea Bizwire) – With China’s ban on Korean products intensifying over the THAAD conflict, plagiarism and unlicensed distribution of Korean television programs are becoming more common than usual.
According to local sources, three of China’s major video streaming websites – Tencent, Youku, and iQiyi – deleted all 2017 episodes of South Korean entertainment programs at the end of February, including Infinite Challenge, 2 Days & 1 Night, and Running Man.
The programs had been updated weekly on the platforms, and were offered to paying subscribers, up until the General Administration of Press and Publication ordered the service providers on February 24 not to upload the latest episodes of the shows, sources said.
Several attempts to interfere with Korean cultural content in China have already been made since Korea decided to deploy the American missile defense system last year. Broadcasts from Korea have been banned, and Korean celebrities have had Chinese TV appearances cancelled, although the Chinese government has denied all accusations related to retaliatory initiatives.
Such bans have resulted in Chinese broadcasters subsequently plagiarizing South Korean programs, some of which they had been co-producing with Korean networks.
For instance, Zhejiang Television recently changed the title of the upcoming fifth season of Hurry Up, Brother, a spin-off program of Running Man, to Hurry Up, claiming that it will be a completely different show.
“The Chinese broadcaster said that it removed all elements of the original Korean program, and was not going to be paying any royalties or share its profits,” said director Kim Yong-jae from the SBS department of global content.
“China’s THAAD retaliation is terrible news for television networks,” he said. “And we’re completely defenseless against these measures.”
Similarly, Hunan Television changed the title of I Am a Singer, from the Korean program of the same name, to Singer, in an attempt to eliminate the “Korean” elements of the show, and the network is also airing Amazing Kids, apparently inspired by SBS’ Finding Genius, and Longing for Life, from tvN’s Three Meals a Day during weekend primetime programming.
Jiangsu Television and Shanghai Television are also broadcasting TV shows including Sing until the End (from The Voice of God, SBS) and Friends over Flowers (from Law of the Jungle, SBS), both of which have allegedly appropriated themes from South Korean shows, with Korean officials speculating that this is just the tip of the iceberg given the massive number (over 2,000) of television channels in China.
Meanwhile, piracy remains a chronic problem for South Korean television networks, and is expected to worsen with content now being banned by the government from officially licensed providers.
“Even banning the internet altogether won’t stop the distribution of pirated versions (of Korean TV programs),” said Kim, referring to Chinese fans who are expected to continue consumption of hallyu products despite government restrictions. “It’s dreadful that there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Ahn In-bae, director of the Korea Independent Productions Association, also expressed his frustration over the “theft” of Korean cultural content by Chinese broadcasters. “Not a single measure of progress has been made despite repeated requests for government (South Korean) intervention,” said Ahn. “It is imperative that our government take strong action.”
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)