Shen Yun Performing Arts, a New York-based Chinese dance company that was scheduled to perform at Seoul‘s KBS Hall from May 6-8, claims that the Chinese government had a hand in the cancellation of its upcoming Seoul show.
“KBS canceled the rental contract (with us), citing an illogical reason, and we soon found out it was not its voluntary decision, but because of pressure from the Chinese Embassy,” said Lee Chang-sik, head of New Cosmos Media, in charge of promoting and marketing Shen Yun Performing Arts‘ Korea tour.
Shen Yun dancers pose on stage before a show at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas. (Shen Yun Performing Arts)
On Jan. 4, the dance company signed a contract with Korean Broadcasting System, a state-run broadcaster, to rent the concert hall run by KBS on May 6-8. Soon after the contract was signed, Shen Yun opened ticket sales and conducted promotional activities. However, the dance company received notification from KBS on Jan. 26 stating that the contract had to be canceled as “Shen Yun performance is unsuitable for KBS Hall.”
The Seoul show was part of Shen Yun’s Korea tour scheduled from late April to early May in four major cities, including Jeonju, Suwon and Ulsan.
Lee said he discovered Chinese diplomats in Korea were putting pressure on Korean arts centers against staging Shen Yun shows.
In fact, the Ulsan Culture Art Center, the venue for the Shen Yun show in Ulsan, did receive a phone call asking the center to cancel the performance.
“I received a call from the Chinese Consulate General in Busan in late January, asking us to cancel the Shen Yun performance,” said an official from the UCAC.
The UCAC did not cancel the show and will proceed with the show on May 3-4. The other art centers in Jeonju and Suwon are also scheduled to go ahead with their scheduled shows.
NCM further claimed that KBS’ cancellation was made on account of the dance company’s ties to Falun Gong activities in China.
Shen Yun Performing Arts was founded in 2006 by practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice the Chinese Communist Party in 1999 declared a “heretical organization” that threatens social stability. The dance company mainly stages classical Chinese dance performances that highlight “5,000 years of Chinese culture.” It has performed at major concert venues such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington and Royal Festival Hall in London.
Shen Yun dancers perform “Inspired Dance of the Yi” during their world tour in 2013. (Shen Yun Performing Arts)
KBS admitted that it canceled the contract due to Shen Yun Performing Art’s link to Falun Gong, but denied China’s influence on its decision.
“Their (NCM’s) claim is groundless. When they applied for the concert hall rental in late December, they never mentioned anything about the Falun Gong practice. But the contract signed on Jan. 4 revealed their link to a Falun Gong group,” Ahn Hyun-ki, director of the promotion division of KBS, told The Korea Herald in a phone call.
“We are not judging whether Falun Gong is right or wrong. We just see (Shen Yun) is far from a pure arts performance,” said Ahn.
Ahn added that there was an error in the process that selected shows to be put on at the KBS Hall in the first half of the year.
“There has been a change in the official in charge of screening the shows. The contract was made by a person who has since been replaced,“ said Ahn.
This is not the first time KBS has canceled contracts with Shen Yun Performing Arts. The state broadcaster said it canceled rent contracts for Seoul and Busan performance venues in 2006 and 2008, respectively, fearing the show’s connection with Falun Gong would cause controversies.
The Chinese Embassy in Seoul declined to comment on the issue.
By Lee Woo-young (email@example.com