Leaders from across Asia gathered in San Francisco for the APEC Economic Leaders' Week from Nov. 11 to 17, with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol among them. Much of the summit's attention focused on China’s relations with the United States, but our relationship with our allies, including Mr. Yoon, is arguably even more important.
South Korea has faced severe pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on several fronts, and it's the duty of the United States to help our allies stand strong against CCP leader Xi Jinping at this critical juncture. One such issue facing Mr. Yoon is a choice between allowing the CCP to dictate Korea’s artistic scene versus upholding the country’s hard-won values of free expression and democracy.
I have had the pleasure of attending one of their shows in California and found the classical Chinese culture and virtues represented throughout the show inspiring. Yet in South Korea, after having performed for many years and selling out shows at the National Theater of Korea last year, it has come to my attention that the company is having difficulty securing venues for 2024.
Xi’s regime appears to be redoubling its pressure at a time when the Yoon administration is working to strengthen its ties with the United States and democratic allies in Asia while reassuring Beijing of its desire for “cooperation.” Unfortunately, since September 2022, 13 applications for Shen Yun performances in South Korea have been rejected. For the first time since Shen Yun’s establishment, the company is facing the reality of hardly performing in South Korea at all.
Bowing to the will of the CCP sets a worrisome precedent for any future policymaking at a time when South Korea must stand strong. Xi’s regime has only become more aggressive as its ambition to control the region grows. It's the duty of democratic governments to defend freedom in the face of oppression. That's why I sent a letter to Mr. Yoon to do just that and to ensure that the citizens of South Korea have the opportunity to see an inspiring and beautiful performance.
The CCP should never have a say in the decisions of any nation, much less a free and democratic nation. Shen Yun represents some of the values that the CCP fears the most—freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We must stand strong together against any attempt to undermine democracy, including the suppression of Shen Yun.