Amid China’s escalating control over its domestic and foreign internet activity, Naver, South Korea’s largest portal site, has reportedly been blocked locally. This development follows the recent similar restrictions placed on another portal site, Daum. This situation intensifies the ongoing Hallyu Ban, unofficial restrictions by the Chinese government on the distribution of Korean cultural content, which has been in place since 2016.
According to sources in Beijing and Shenyang, Liaoning Province, on May 22, there have been numerous instances where Naver has become either inaccessible or considerably slow to load in these key regions within China. This restriction is seen as a major blow as Naver is a vital platform for sharing a variety of life and travel information and for product trading among expatriates.
Interestingly, these instances of internet censorship coincide with the aftermath of a joint statement from the G7 summit that included comprehensive containment measures against China. This comes about four years after all South Korean corporate websites were blocked following the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) deployment retaliation measures in 2019.
This recent incident harks back to the Hallyu Ban, an informal sanction placed by the Chinese government on Korean cultural content following South Korea’s decision to deploy the US-led THAAD system. The ban, which has never been officially acknowledged by the Chinese government, has reportedly led to billions of dollars in revenue loss for the Korean cultural industry, leading to the cancellation of concerts, tours, and the removal of Korean content from Chinese streaming services.
Lim Soo-suk, a spokesperson for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acknowledged the reports and stated that they are “currently being verified with relevant agencies.” In contrast, Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated he had “no specific information” on the matter, avoiding a direct response.
In another incident, singer and actor Jung Yong-hwa, who was set to appear in a new audition program on the Chinese online video service (OTT) ‘iQiyi’, had his appearance abruptly cancelled. The participation of singer Hyuna in a music festival to be held in Wuhan on June 18 is now uncertain due to backlash from Chinese netizens.
The Hallyu Ban is a complex issue with far-reaching implications. It continues to challenge the Korean cultural industry and strain diplomatic relations between South Korea and China. The future of the ban remains uncertain, but it is expected to remain a contentious issue for the foreseeable future.