Mamamoo, a South Korean girl group. Photo: YouTube, Mamamoo
Mamamoo, a South Korean girl group. Photo: YouTube, Mamamoo

The gate of friendship between China and South Korea has reopened after a 16-month ban of K-pop products in the former’s market of 1.3 billion people.

Ahead of South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s meeting with her counterpart Wang Yi in China this month, K-pop band Mamamoo has quietly stepped forward ahead of the ice-breaking meeting.

The girl group, who specialize in jazz and pop music, took part in a recording for Sichuan TV on Tuesday and became the first Korean performing group to return to China since July last year.

China imposed a K-pop ban in retaliation against South Korea after Seoul’s decision to let the United States deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which Beijing saw as possibly threatening its security. China’s Foreign Ministry said South Korea’s decision caused the people of China emotional distress, and therefore called for a ban of South Korea’s cultural products.

But things started to turn around after the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. Two weeks ago, Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said cultural exchange involved Chinese people’s preferences and emotional choice. When Chinese people feel an emotional connection with a country, cultural exchanges occur more smoothly.

The change came ahead of US President Donald Trump’s first visit in Asia, during which he expects to have an exchange with Chinese President Xi Jinping on North Korea issues. Trump is expected to be in China between November 8 and 10.

The Korean pop wave has swept through some Asian countries, especially China, where people are fond of Korean TV drama, music and movies.

Despite the public ban on Korean cultural products, many Chinese still found ways to go over the wall.

One example was the highly anticipated wedding between K-drama stars Song Hye-kyo and Song Joong-ki, the leads of the popular Descendants of the Sun. Despite it being a close-door, private event, several Chinese websites broadcast the whole ceremony to millions of viewers.

The aggressive tactics of Chinese media shocked their counterparts in Korea because they looked like losing out on exclusive footage of the event. But whether it was a smart Chinese tactic or a leak that was authorized by the Song couple in view of the lifting of the ban was debatable.