SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Korea Bizwire) – Unnerving rumors spread across the Korean entertainment industry in the weeks that followed the Korean government’s decision to deploy a THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) battery in Seongju, a county in North Gyeongsang Province, with some suggesting that the Chinese government would retaliate by controlling the spread of hallyu (Korean wave) in China.
Speculations first circulated with an unconfirmed report that China’s state media administrator and supervisor SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television) ordered restrictions on the activities of Korean celebrities in the country. But with the SARFT denying the allegations, the anxiety seemed to have died down.
However, new concerns have risen recently with rumors that K-pop products will be banned for sale in China, and the Korean entertainment industry is, once again, on alert.
On Tuesday, Chinese newspaper Global Times noted that there have been reports that China’s largest e-commerce site, Taobao, decided to ban K-pop merchandise and Korean celebrities from appearing on its platform during the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou.
According to the paper, rumors of a potential ban of K-pop-style clothes, pictures, videos, and pop star names on Chinese online shopping platforms, including Tmall and Taobao, during the summit and the Double 11 online shopping festival, are spreading rapidly across Sina Weibo, one of most popular microblogging websites in the country.
Taobao and its parent company Alibaba Group have so far refuted the rumors, while a K-pop product vendor on Taobao also said that “there has been no request from Alibaba to remove the names and pictures” of K-pop celebrities from the website.
But despite official denials, certain industry watchers claim that Chinese officials are deliberately leaking similar rumors to promote anti-Korean sentiment, in a bid to pressure the Korean government over the THAAD decision, and by creating such an environment, Chinese companies have no choice but to take extra precautions in their dealings with Korean counterparts.
“Once these kinds of rumors spread, Chinese firms have no choice but to take measures to avoid potential reprisals from the government,” said an entertainment industry watchdog.
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)