China’s CCTV and Korea’s KBS Sign Agreement, Potentially Signaling End to Content Ban

China's state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) announced late Monday evening that it had signed a strategic program development and online video partnership with South Korean public broadcaster KBS. The move could be a strong indicator of a thawing of tensions between the two countries that have unofficially banned Korean content on the mainland for years.
If so, it would be a boon to Korean content creators and content companies that have been banned from the Chinese market since 2016 in retaliation for Korea's agreement to allow the use of the US THAAD anti-missile defense system, a move that deeply angered Beijing.
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"This year is the year of Sino-Korean cultural exchange," said CCTV in its brief announcement of the deal, which reflects the ruling Communist Party's party line. CCTV and KBS "signed a video cooperation agreement ... to implement the consensus reached by the leaders of China and South Korea" without specifying what type of cooperation would take place and when.
Korean-language reports were also not prepared. According to a report, the two companies will "work together on various aspects of the culture industry by leveraging each other's strengths in online video".
The two sides "decided to establish a cooperation mechanism for program content development, media technology, industry management and other such areas based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and friendly consultations," CCTV said. The move aims to "promote people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, strengthen friendship and mutual trust in order to take the strategic partnership between China and South Korea to a new level."
The deal was signed by China's Shen Haixiong - the current head of the China Media Group, which oversees video surveillance, and the deputy minister in the country's powerful central propaganda office - and KBS President Yang Seung-dong.
Since THAAD was built, no Korean film has been officially released in China, and no major Korean musical group has been invited to perform. However, in the order from top to bottom, something was thawed to keep the contents out. Some prominent K-pop artists like Big Bang's G-Dragon and Blackpink's Lisa, the Thai woman, have landed major advertising deals and even variety shows in China.
But even after these deals, observers in Korean industry were still desperate last May over the possibility of reconciliation. “There are signs of optimism compared to four years ago when K-pop stars were removed from advertising. But it's too early to interpret it as anything other than what it actually is, ”said Lim Dae-geun, professor of Chinese interpretation at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, the then Korean Herald.
However, things may have changed now.
The CCTV-KBS deal appears to have emerged from a state visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to South Korea in late November to attempt to bring the country closer together before the arrival of the new US administration, Biden, as an ally.
The two countries agreed to have more cultural exchanges in 2021 and 2022, ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics and the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.
"The US is not the only country in the world," Wang said when asked at a press conference about his trip related to rivalries between the US and China. He described China and Korea as "like relatives".
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