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Don’t put all the blame on Thaad

Feb 06,2017
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It was in late 2015 that the Chinese government announced a drastic reinforcement of safety management standards on imported cosmetics products. Beijing notified the World Trade Organization and set a one-year grace period. It was fairly a transparent process. It is worthy to notice the timing of December, 2015. In July 2016, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) deployment was announced. So the cosmetics safety control is unrelated to Thaad.

Recently, it was reported that the Chinese Customs’ decision to decline some Korean cosmetic products was a retaliation for Thaad.

However, the companies admit faults on their side, such as discrepancy between documents and contents and inclusion of unapproved ingredients, such as preservative. Among 19 cases that failed to pass, 13 of them were submitted by one small company that is not well known.

The Koran Embassy in China and the Food and Drug Administration investigated each case and announced that they could not be deemed as retaliation. Nevertheless, the market sensitively reacted to some media reports that blamed Thaad as the cause. The overall stock price of the cosmetics industry plummeted. Most companies that passed the reinforced standards are unreasonably affected. An executive at a major cosmetics maker said, “When Thaad is actually deployed, we are considering possibility of tightened customs screening and even boycott. However, there has not been a damage in sales in the Chinese market yet. In fact, we suffered greater damage from the stock price that fell due to the sensitive reaction of the market.”

Situations are similar for other products mentioned as target of retaliation. The exclusion of the electric cars equipped with Korea-made NMC batteries from government subsidies was announced in 2015 before the Thaad deployment was decided. Also, the bidet made in Korea that passed customs but failed in the sample test is also unrelated to Thaad. The electric current was not included in the label, which is required, and the company now exports a corrected version and did not suffer any real damage. It is unlikely and unreasonable that the Chinese authority would take an action that does not incur any damage as a retaliation.

Of course, there are some industries that are suffering from retaliation. Even a Chinese foreign ministry official admitted that the sudden disappearance of once-ubiquitous Korean celebrities from television was influenced by the government. The number of Chinese visitors noticeably declined since the China National Tourist Office unofficially set a guideline in October, 2016. The tax investigation into Lotte subsidiaries after Lotte expressed intention to provide a site for Thaad base is obviously retaliatory.

It is not right to blame Thaad for everything. That’s what China wants.

Koreans cannot deal with China unless we become calm and brave.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 4, Page 27


*The author is the Beijing bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

YEH YOUNG-JUNE