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Korea’s exports of cultural products plunge amid THAAD row

South Korea’s exports of cultural products have dropped for two straight months, central bank data showed Monday, possibly due to the aftermath of a clampdown by main importer China.

South Korea’s exports of cultural products such as TV programs, music, movies and performance guarantees in October declined 21.7 percent from September to reach $51.5 million. It marked a second consecutive monthly fall and the smallest monthly total in 13 months. The recent decline compares with the upward trend that had continued since early 2015.

An on-going Korean TV program. (SBS)
An on-going Korean TV program. (SBS)

In the third quarter, sales and income from exporting TV programs, music, movies and performance guarantees amounted to $208.2 million, falling from $240.6 million in the previous quarter. It was the first quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2014.

While statistics from the central bank do not provide a regional breakdown for the exports of cultural products, China is considered the biggest factor in the decline.

China is thought to have unofficially banned Korean cultural products and celebrities from appearing on TV and online since July, when the Korean government decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a US missile defense system. The Chinese government strongly opposes the deployment, arguing that it would harm strategic stability in the region.

While the Chinese government has never explicitly admitted to banning Korean cultural products, Geng Shuang, the spokesperson of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Nov. 21 had said, “Human exchanges between the two countries need to be based on public opinion,” adding that the Chinese public was not happy with the deployment of THAAD.

Another set of figures that indicates China’s unofficial clampdown, was that no South Korean artist has been given permission to perform in China since October, according to the Chinese Culture Ministry’s official website.

Experts and businessmen expressed concerns that such supposed ban Korean cultural products in addition to other measures, such as limiting the number of tourists to Korea, would have a long term negative impact on Korean businesses in China.

“With a lot of cultural products banned, it makes it more difficult to do marketing and business in China.” Lyan Chang, a business consultant who specializes in Chinese businesses told The Korea Herald.

“What’s more, the restrictions come along with the waning power of K-pop content while China is trying to strengthen its cultural power.” 

By Park Ga-young (gypark@heraldcorp.com)
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