Photo: AP Photo / Lee Jin-man, File
China / Korea Tensions - Beijing’s escalating condemnation of South Korea over a U.S. anti-missile system has triggered protests against a popular retail giant and a reported ban on Chinese tour groups visiting the country.
Though China has not expressly said that the recent rash of cancellations of Korean artists' concerts and other appearances on the mainland is due to the missile defense system, everybody seems convinced that is the reason.
Now, it seems the unofficial boycott is affecting shows in South Korea itself. The Joongang Daily reports that a company called PMC Production is temporarily closing one of the four theaters it operates for staging the cooking performance show "Nanta," which is a big hit among tourists.
The Chungjeongno Theater, which is located in central Seoul, was particularly popular with Chinese tour groups.
An official of the company told the newspaper, "The Chinese audience has been decreasing gradually since last year, and recently the number dropped almost to nil, as the Chinese government urged its people not to travel to Korea."
Starting in April the theater will be closed for "two or three months." But since the Chinese authorities have banned Chinese travel agencies from booking tour groups to Korea starting March 15, PMC has to consider the possibility of closing the theater permanently. OD Company, which produces the famous Korean musical version of "Jekyll & Hyde," has branched out with a production in English starring Broadway actors that is touring the world.
The main producer, Shin Chun-soo, reportedly had been working closely with a Chinese production team to stage the musical with Chinese actors in China.
Last week, during a press conference to kick off the Seoul premiere of a new version of the musical, Shin told reporters that, at the moment, "it's difficult to say anything about how [the business] with China is going.
The [missile] issue, of course, is very serious between the two countries. Therefore, I can't help being discrete about making remarks. My words may affect the situation of not only my production company, but also [my Chinese] counterpart." Nevertheless, Shin thinks that the performing arts market in Asia will expand, and China will be at the center of it. "Honestly," he told the reporters, "I didn't expect this kind of political issue to affect Korea's arts industry as seriously as it has."