Shen Yun Performing Arts has faced challenges in securing top-flight venues in South Korea, sparking concerns over Beijing’s interference in South Korea’s internal affairs and cultural sovereignty.
New York-based Shen Yun is the world’s top classical Chinese dance company, and since its inception in 2006, it has become a global phenomenon. Using the universal language of music and dance, it seeks to “revive 5,000 years of Chinese civilization” and show audiences the beauty of “China before communism.”
The organization’s eight equally sized companies have embarked on a journey of more than 750 performances in over 180 cities in more than 20 countries on five continents this year.
However, Shen Yun has struggled to secure top-flight venues in South Korea for the past 17 years.
Most recently, in 2023, 13 government-operated theaters refused to rent their venues to Shen Yun, all citing Beijing's disinformation about the show.
Beijing InterferenceViewing the company’s mission to revive traditional Chinese culture as a direct challenge to its authority, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gone to great lengths to interfere with Shen Yun’s performances worldwide.
Its efforts are especially rampant in South Korea.
For years, Shen Yun’s venue applications to major South Korean theaters were often rejected ahead of its tour, oftentimes without an explanation.
There are also instances where the theaters would abruptly cancel the venue rental even after a contract had been signed. In such cases, Shen Yun would pursue legal action.
Seoul Southern District Court ruled that the cancellation does not hold and that Shen Yun must be allowed to perform at KBS. However, seeing the result, the Chinese embassy issued another official document and sent it to KBS Hall, again with the same libel and threats.
A few days later, the court revoked its decision and canceled Shen Yun’s four performances—even though thousands of tickets had already been sold.
US State Department Report Highlights Beijing CoercionThe U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom cited Shen Yun’s difficulty finding venues in South Korea and several instances of the abrupt cancellation of performances in the country due to pressure from the Chinese regime.
The annual U.S. report highlights government policies violating the religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations, and individuals in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
According to the Korean Falun Dafa Association, the local organizer of Shen Yun, the Chinese Embassy and Consulate General in South Korea have been forcing local governments and universities with major performance venues to refuse venue rentals to Shen Yun or cancel existing contracts with the company for the past 17 years. And their methods of coercion include phone calls, letters, and personal visits.
It urged South Korean local governments to no longer remain silent or cooperate with the Chinese regime’s interference in South Korea’s internal affairs and violate its cultural sovereignty.
On the other hand, the venue at the government-operated National Theater of Korea was made available to Shen Yun for the first time this year, a welcoming change since President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May 2022.
Yoon is widely known for his stance on strengthening ties with Washington over Beijing.