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Film festival in Beijing shuns Korean movies

Mar 29,2017
China blocked the screening of Korean films at the upcoming 7th Beijing International Film Festival, the latest retaliatory measure against Seoul for the deployment of a U.S.-led antimissile system.

Film industry sources confirmed Tuesday that Korean films were invited to partake in the annual film festival in Beijing, which runs from April 16 to 23, but they are not going to be screened because of Chinese authorities’ orders.

Since the announcement last July of Seoul and Washington’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system to Korea, China has taken various retaliatory measures against the Korean entertainment industry, including unofficial bans on Hallyu, or Korean wave, content, as well as restricting tour packages to Korea and a crackdown on Korean retail stores in China.

“The Beijing International Film Festival has invited Koreans but have suspended this because of Chinese authorities’ orders,” one film industry insider said. “Thus, it appears Korean films will not be screened at the film festival.”

Last year, top young Hallyu stars including Lee Min-ho and Kim Woo-bin were in the spotlight at the film festival in Beijing, which launched in 2011. Lee, who starred in the 2016 comedic action film “Bounty Hunters,” a co-production project among Korea, China and Hong Kong, took part in the opening ceremony of the festival last April, which was broadcast on state television.

There were several Korean films that were screened and made shortlists for awards last year. This year, no Korean films are reported to be on the preliminary screenings list.

The eight-day Beijing International Film Festival is held by the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality.

China’s Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which is responsible for broadcast policy, has been reported as being behind the order to production companies to stop making programs with Hallyu content as well as joint projects with Korea.

Earlier this month, a Korean-Chinese co-production starring Korean actor Ha Jung-woo with Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi fell through after Ha faced trouble with getting a visa from China and other problems.

News about Hallyu entertainers and Korean films is rare on Chinese television and in newspapers these days, and no Korean movie was released in China last year though about four films are usually released in theaters in China annually.

The Chinese government became even more aggressive in its retaliation following the finalization of the government swapped land with Lotte Group at the end of last month to find a home for the Thaad battery. Lotte’s businesses in China were particularly targeted.

When asked by a reporter for Seoul’s response to China’s blocking of Korean films and the continued retaliations for the Thaad deployment, Cho June-hyuck, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replied that the Korean government is “paying close attention to the series of measures taking place within China.”

Cho continued in a briefing Tuesday, “Our government holds the consistent position that under no circumstance should civilian exchanges between two countries, which form the foundation of bilateral relations, face artificial handicaps, and will actively respond to China’s unfair measures in order to minimize the damage against Korean companies.”

The Foreign Ministry also spoke up against the destruction of South Korean flags in China following the Thaad fallout, saying it has lodged a strong protest with Beijing.

Several Taegeukgi, or Korean national flags, were found torn in pieces in health clubs in Tianjin earlier this month in a sign of anti-Korea sentiment.

“The national flag symbolizes the dignity of the country and our government takes the destruction of our flag in some regions in China seriously and gravely,” said Cho. He said that the Chinese government responded it recognizes the gravity of the destruction of the flags and will take necessary measures including retrieving destroyed flags.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]