Candy, K-pop get doused amid China’s ire over THAAD

- Associated Press, SEOUL

Mar 20, 2017-

The once-cordial ties between South Korea and its biggest trading partner have soured due to the perception that China has targeted businesses, sports teams and culture to protest deployment of an advanced US anti-missile system in South Korea.

A South Korean candy maker, a chocolate factory, video games and a soccer team have suffered from actions many in South Korea view as retribution and Chinese have vandalized some South Korean-run stores.

Beijing is incensed over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system. The US and South Korea say it’s needed as a defense against a belligerent North Korea but China believes the system could be used against its own missiles as well.

China denies any direct link between its ire over the US missile system and recent troubles for South Korean businesses. Some recent developments viewed as retaliation:

Chewing-gum maker and retail giant Lotte Group, South Korea’s No. 5 business group, took the brunt of the backlash after agreeing to let one of its golf courses in southeastern South Korea be a site for deploying THAAD. Lotte Duty Free said its shopping websites were knocked offline for more than six hours a few days after the agreement was signed, in what it believes were cyberattacks by Chinese, based on an analysis of IP addresses. At least 55 of 99 Lotte Mart discount stores in China were shut in early March for a month each after surprise inspections found violations of fire safety standards. Five Lotte department stores and 13 smaller supermarkets remain open, the company said Friday.

A Hershey chocolate factory in Shanghai jointly operated with Lotte suspended production earlier this month for what Hershey said was maintenance for a routine inspection but South Koreans linked it to the spat. Since last year, some K-pop and K-drama stars have cancelled visits to China due to visa delays. South Korean actor Ha Jung Woo could not get a visa needed for a movie project with China called “The Mask,” starring Chinese star Zhang Ziyi, his agency confirmed on Wednesday. The representative for Ha, who was not authorized to talk about 

the matter and thus asked not to be identified, would not say if the project fell through because of the THAAD problem.

Regional satellite broadcasters have reportedly been ordered to suspend broadcasts of South Korean television dramas. Online distributors such as Youku, a homegrown YouTube clone, have apparently also stopped buying broadcast rights to South Korean shows. On Youku, “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God,” a series featuring South Korean actor Gong Yoo, was no longer on the platform as of Friday. The fantasy-romance drama, which aired its final episode in January, had been available on Youku but reports emerged in February they were removed.

In January, South Korean soprano Jo Sumi said her concert in China was canceled, possibly due to the diplomatic spat.

“I had been preparing for since I got the invitation two years ago, but there was no word on why it was cancelled,” Jo, a Grammy Award-winning soprano, said on Twitter. “It’s very sad that conflicts between countries are getting in the way of culture and the arts.”

China and South Korea play each other in the central Chinese city of Changsha on March 23. China reportedly refused to let the team take a chartered flight. That could leave them at a disadvantage, and also limit the number of supporters they can bring. China trails in its group, and a loss to South Korea could anger local fans, adding to tensions.

Some South Koreans believe China’s recent rejection of some South Korean cosmetic products also was fallout from the THAAD issue. Beauty companies whose products are popular in China have downplayed suggestions that such actions were linked to politics, saying they have not noticed any meaningful decline in sales to Chinese.

Published: 20-03-2017 09:46

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