Censoring China's True Culture
First in a Series
The long arm of Beijing has apparently maneuvered to shut down a Chinese New Year cultural show in Seoul, South Korea's capital, just three days before its scheduled performance for an anticipated audience of 2,500.
"The National Theater of Korea, pressured by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, unilaterally canceled the contract," wrote New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), the producer of the performance, in a statement posted Friday, Jan. 5 on its website.
The 2007 Seoul Spectacular was to be performed last Saturday, Jan. 6, at Seoul's prestigious National Theater of Korea (NTK), which is owned and run by the Korean government. The show was part of the Chinese New Year Spectacular, a global music and dance tour covering 28 cities worldwide. NTDTV signed a contract with NTK in late October 2006 and was informed in early December that all the paperwork was in place and rental fees were due.
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Surprise came on Dec. 20 as NTK told NTDTV that it would be unable to provide the lighting, music, and stage technicians outlined in the contract. It said that a concert had suddenly been scheduled in China and the technicians were needed there.
Seventeen days before the show, NTDTV began a frantic search for a whole new crew.
Pressure from the CCP
Yongmin Jo, Chief of Planning and Coordination for NTDTV Korea, said that NTDTV had heard rumors that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was trying to stop the performance by asking Korean government officials to put pressure on NTK.
"On Dec. 21, when I met the person in charge of the contract with the National Theater, he told me that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism told him our show should be canceled. Otherwise, [the CCP] will cancel the National Theater's contract for their show [upcoming in China in June]," said Jo.
A source from NTK told Chosunilbo , South Korea's largest daily newspaper, "They [NTDTV] are going to put traditional Korean and Chinese performances on the stage, but China protested strongly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, arguing that NTDTV is an 'enemy of the state.' So the Ministry of Culture and Tourism sent an official request to the National Theater to cancel the concert."
On Dec. 22, NTDTV staff went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade office and requested a meeting with Korea's director of East Asia affairs.
"We waited for four hours there, but no one would meet with us," said Yongmin Jo, who said they later learned that the Chinese Ambassador to Korea had met with the Minister earlier that same morning without an appointment.
On Dec. 26, according to Jo, someone from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism called the director of a performance group asking that a key member not perform.
The next day, NTK demanded special documents for performers from Taiwan, forcing the cancellation of the Taiwanese dance numbers.
On Jan. 2, NTDTV was told it must submit an official document to the Korea Media Rating Board before noon the next day, or face cancellation of the concert.
Unable to meet such a short deadline, the 2007 Seoul Spectacular was canceled, just three days before its scheduled performance.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade denies being pressured by the Chinese, according to The Korea Times. In addition, the NTK stated on its website that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism had not requested the performance be canceled.
Son Joo-og, an official of the performance programming division of NTK, told The Korea Times that this is the only time the theater, which was established in 1950, has ever canceled a contract because a client failed to provide the kind of documents demanded of the Spectacular.
The Second Time
Staff members at New Tang Dynasty Television were not entirely surprised by the incident because of their experience last year.
The 2006 New Year show, at that time known as the Chinese New Year Global Gala, was scheduled for performance at the theater of the Korean Broadcasting System. Just weeks before the show, the theater backed out of the contract, allegedly also at the behest of the Chinese Embassy. Fortunately for NTDTV, they had time that year to find an alternate venue.
According to its Web site, NTDTV is an independent, nonprofit Chinese-language television station founded by Chinese Americans in 2001, having correspondents in 50 cities around the world.
Asked why the Chinese regime would target NTDTV and its Spectacular, Senior Vice-President Samuel Zhou said, "We bring uncensored information about China to a world audience, including by satellite to China. This is something the Party hates."
Zhou continued, "The CCP's rule over China is rooted in a culture the Party has created over the past 50 years. The Spectacular offers authentic, traditional Chinese culture, and both Chinese and Westerners prefer that. The Party really fears this show."
Articles in South Korean newspapers suggest that the South Korean people are angry at the government over the cancellation. An editorial in Chosunilbo stated, "Any act of Chinese meddling in Korean internal affairs, such as telling us who can perform here or not, would not be possible if our government stood firmly by the principles of fair bilateral relations… why an independent government would volunteer to perform each and every one of China's biddings is unfathomable."
The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of the 2007 NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular.