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China may be warming up to Korea again: PyeongChang Olympics special and celebrity wedding coverage reveal relations are improving

Nov 03,2017
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On Nov. 1, Chinese state media outlet CCTV aired a special half-hour program on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The program featured a close look at the facilities in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, the promotional video made by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the 100-day countdown celebration and the torch relay. [TV CAPTURE]
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On Oct. 31, a Chinese fan posted a photograph of girl group Mamamoo at the airport in Chengdu on Weibo. [INTERNET CAPTURE]
It’s been over a year since Korean stars were ousted from Chinese television programs after Seoul decided to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system on the peninsula. But it seems like the cold relationship between the two countries may be thawing, as state media outlet CCTV aired a 30-minute special about the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics on Nov. 1 and digital media outlets are beginning to feature more Korean entertainment-related stories on its channels.

After the Korean government finalized its plans to deploy the Thaad missile defense system in July 2016, the diplomatic conflict between Seoul and Beijing spread to all parts of the economy, including arts and entertainment.

Korean celebrities were altogether removed from view as Chinese television channels stopped featuring Korean celebrities or airing Korean dramas, and advertisements featuring Korean celebrities were taken down. Even online media outlets were forced to stop importing Korean content.

Yet, tensions seem to be softening after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded on Oct. 24. The two countries revealed they were “normalizing” their relations on Oct. 31.

The special program on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics aired on CCTV emphasized the need for peaceful relations between the two countries. The program featured a close look at the Olympic facilities in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, as well as coverage of the 100-day countdown celebration and the torch relay.

Phoenix New Media, a Chinese website dedicated to information on Korea, aired a live stream of the torch relay on Nov. 1. The stream had more than 500 thousand viewers over four hours.

It seems that Chinese outlets are newly eager to get the latest entertainment news in Korea as well, as a Chinese drone was found to be illegally recording the wedding of Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo on Oct. 31, streaming it live to Weibo, China’s biggest social network. The live stream of the wedding hit no. 1 on multiple search engines.

Meanwhile on Oct. 31, a Chinese fan posted a photograph of girl group Mamamoo at the Chengdu airport on Weibo. There had been rumors that Mamamoo was staying in China and has been shooting a program with Sichuan TV. However, Rainbowbridge World, Mamamoo’s agency, revealed that the girl group was visiting China only to perform at the “ABU Song Festival” which is an annual gala show hosted by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, and China just happened to be this year’s host.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]