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Picking on the movies

Mar 29,2017
China took a very discourteous step by deciding not to put Korean movies on screens even after inviting them to the 7th Beijing International Film Festival from April 16 to 23. In the festival last year, many Korean actors participated, including Lee Min-ho and Kim Woo-bin. But the Chinese government has recently put an extensive ban on Korean movies for the festival.

We are deeply concerned about China’s disgraceful action. Beijing must have taken this provocative step as retaliation for our government’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system, which is meant to defend our people and territory from incoming North Korean missiles.

In fact, China’s retaliations have been coming thick and fast, most recently a ban on its citizens’ joining group tours to Korea. Not a single Korean film was shown in China last year, according to the latest statistics from the Korean Film Council. Even though the producer of the Korean zombie movie “Train to Busan,” which sold 10 million tickets here, sold distribution rights to China last year, Beijing is still blocking it from being shown. Discussions on the production of Korea-China collaborations, including “Mask,” in which Korean actor and film director Ha Jung-woo and famous Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi are supposed to appear, are all on hold.

We are dumbfounded at the way China is behaving — putting pressure on a film industry that cherishes the values of freedom and creativity above all. China’s attempt to achieve a military goal by cutting off cultural exchanges does not make sense at all. Films have been serving as an effective tool for facilitating cultural exchanges between the two countries. Movies also played a pivotal role in understanding — and respecting — the way both peoples think and act. China’s reckless building of a cultural barrier will only backfire because it will lead to a loss of the priceless assets both sides have built together.

If China continues to address a military disagreement between Seoul and Beijing through economic and cultural sanctions rather than through dialogue, the Korean people’s disappointment will only deepen. Such emotional approaches do not help settle problems, and will only deepen the Korean people’ anger and harm the mutual trust both sides have built so far, not to mention tarnishing China’s image as an economic leader. Beijing must put such a narrow-minded and anti-cultural mindset at bay immediately.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 30