Media regulation

Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens

JDM070917gods.jpg
Bae Yong-joon, playing a guardian god of the king.

For the past few years, Korean soaps have been a staple of Chinese television. Despite repeated attempts by the country's broadcast regulators to push domestic programming, audiences still enjoy watching teen soaps and costume dramas about life in Korea.

But not every Korean TV show finds success on the Chinese mainland. Historical epics, particularly those that depict national founding mythology, don't really sit well with SARFT. Just last week, Chinese media reported that the Administration "blacklisted" the 42-billion-won (US$45 million) blockbuster drama The Four Guardian Gods of the King (太王四神记 in Chinese) for "distorting history."

According to a report in the Oriental Morning Post last week, domestic distributors had been quite interested in the show, whose first episode drew a 20.4% viewership share in Korea (climbing to 26.9% for the third episode). However, certain elements of the story are controversial in China. Writes Darcy Paquet in Variety Asia Online:

Complex plot covers multiple periods in ancient Korean history, including the founding of the kingdom Gojoseon in 2,333 B.C. and the reign of King Gwanggaeto of the Goguryeo Kingdom (391-413 A.D.). The Goguryeo era has emerged as a point of contention in recent years, with Chinese scholars claiming it should considered part of Chinese history.

From this and other reports, it appears that Guardian Gods won't be coming to Chinese television screens any time soon. It joins a number of other recent historical dramas that have been accused of "distorting history"; here's a rundown courtesy of the Chengdu Evening News:

Many Korean soaps smear Chinese history

In recent years there have been many television shows in Korea concerning Goguryeo history. In addition to The Four Guardian Gods of the King, Bae Yong-joon's return to the screen and the first show on SARFT's black-list, Yeon Gaesomun, The Immortal Lee Soon Shin, and Dae Jo-yeong turned the camera on that period of history. Li Shimin, Emperor Taizong of the Tang, was one the greatest emperor in the history of China; to unify Chin he personally set forth to suppress Goguryeo. But in Yeon Gaesomun, Taizong is depicted as an ugly, foolish invader who is blinded in his left eye by the Goguryeo Generalissimo Yeon Gaesomun, while the Tang army must beg for mercy from Goguryeo before they are allowed to return to the Tang. At the end of the first episode of Dae Jo-yeong, Taizong is again absurdly shown as getting a knife shoved in his abdomen by an assassin dressed up as as an army officer, and he nearly dies. In The Immortal Lee Soon Shin, soldiers and equipment from China's Ming Dynasty are shown much feebler than they were, and Ming Dynasty figures are not in accord with history. Ming generals are depicted as practically useless, and though Korea actually allied with the Ming Army to defeat Japan, the show clearly implies that Korea could have defeated Japan without the aid of the Ming. In addition, the show The Last Empress that was brought over by CCTV a few years back kicked up quite a bit of controversy even though most of the parts that smeared China had been changed or deleted.

Netizens blast the shamelessness of Korean soaps' "distortions"

Concerning the falsehoods about Chinese history that appear in Dae Jo-yeong, director Kim Dong-Seon told the Korean media, "Historical dramas aren't documentaries. Plot elements may be at odds with the historical record; the aim of shooting the show is to cultivate feelings of pride in young people!" Reportedly, although the show received high ratings in Korea, Korean audiences were very dissatisfied with some of the fictional elements and characters in the story, and many people said that they couldn't understand it - they thought the entire story was recklessly thrown together. Chinese netizens on various BBSs instigated a tide of attacks against Korean shows' "distortions"; one netizen posting under the handle "Goryeo Cornmeal" spat out in righteous indignation, "These Korean shows mistake true and false and they mix up history. It's comparable to Japan's covering up and distorting its invasion of China. Shows describe Han armies slaughtering Korean civilians, intervening in domestic affairs, carrying out oppression and exploitation...all manner of crimes. Written in this way, China is no better than Japanese pirates!" Another netizen wrote, "Dae Jo-yeong and the other Korean costume dramas imply or outright declare that 80% of China's territory belonged to ancient Korea. And they maliciously smear Emperor Taizong and make the Great Tang look clownish! Utterly shameless and ignorant!"

In addition to quoting random fenqing online, the newspaper also spoke to a few domestic TV directors:

You Xiaogang: "I don't think there's anything to criticize so long as they do not trumpet secession. But filming a historical drama means appropriately fictionalizing on a foundation of respect for history; it's not just haphazardly writing anything you please. If the historical dramas are like you say, with Emperor Taizong losing an eye, then that's too far afield. It's narrow-minded nationalism. Such a show should be resolutely boycotted, the censors should strictly censor it, and it should be banned if necessary."

Nie Yuan: "I haven't seen those shows, and I don't know what their motivation was in filming them, but no matter how you mock or how great your plot is, there's one thing you must remember, and that is respect for history and the original work."

Zhang Jizhong: "Every country wants to beautify history. Look at Japan - they won't admit their guilt even in the face of iron-clad evidence. You have no control over whether they film them, but you can control whether you watch. I choose not to watch."

Thanks to SARFT, Chinese audiences won't have to make that choice.

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There are currently 28 Comments for Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens.

Comments on Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens

Considering China's condescending attitude towards S. Korea (THE country that made China's shipbuilding what it is today) and Koreans as a whole (letting millions of northern Koreans suffering endless cruelty to keep a modern Asian nation at bay) it is not surprising to see these TV shows pop up. And Chinese scholars claiming this TV is an incorrect rendition of Chinese history only reinforce Beijing's claim, and alot of old hands' denials, regarding who should control the Korean peninsula.

"Bravo"! for China's continuing excellence at upholding historical correctness and fighting off any possible encroachment upon national sovereignty, dignity, and any hurting of the feelings of the Chinese people!!

"Bravo!" indeed.

I truly hope Hunxuer you are being sarcastic. I am.

Huzzah for the great MaoDengJiangHu Dynasty! Correct Thinking Chinese Gods!

This nationalism is so retarded. Every country's history is biased. Chinese history routinely demeans the neighboring countries people as savages, primitives and dwarfs. Do you really think those neighboring countries see themselves like that too? Just let everyone express their history in the way they see fit.

No way dude! Here is my invisible dream team, bring on the ninjas too damn it.

Notice I omitted non Han Chinese dudes, because everyone knows Han people rules!

Name: Duan Yu (Dali dude but since he married a Han girl so he count)
Power: Liu Mai Shen Jian, literally lasers come out his fingers!

Name: Xuzhu, leader of xiao yao pai.
Power: Massive internal power!

Name: Guo Jing
Power: 18 dragon defeating palm, plus the crap lao wan tong taught him, plus 9 yin jing (massive internal power for the win)!

Name: Yang Guo
Power: Dugu giant sword!!! Sadness palm. Mastery of 9 yin jing!

Name: Ling Hu Chong
Power: Dugo 9 swords! Invisible swords skills!

You see my team rules! Chinese people are invisible! Just ask the Mongols!

----
1: Chinese people rule!
2: No they don't!
.
.
.
2n-1:Chinese people rule!
2n: No they don't!

Let n go to infinity. Boom, earth blows up! End of argument.


Dude why is my post censored. That wasn't spam and was totally on topic. I was mocking this crap...

Blah...

"'Bravo'! for China's continuing excellence at upholding historical correctness and fighting off any possible encroachment upon national sovereignty, dignity, and any hurting of the feelings of the Chinese people!!"

Hunxuer,

So then, my guess is that you think that South Korea has no right or responsibility to its own sovereignty, dignity or the feelings of its own people?

Luke, Hunxuer is being sarcastic. He's a severe critic of China on the Sinocidal blog, though he's not as good as nanheyangrouchuan at incessantly insulting China; naan and lamb kebab wants to dismantle China and destroy Chinese culture (seriously, search him for that), while Hunxuer hasn't been that severe yet.

This nationalism is so retarded. Every country's history is biased. Chinese history routinely demeans the neighboring countries people as savages, primitives and dwarfs. Do you really think those neighboring countries see themselves like that too? Just let everyone express their history in the way they see fit.

Posted by: icemilkcoffee | September 18, 2007 5:09 AM

But it's useful. If Chinese weren't exposed to nationalistic drivel and were completely internationally-minded, #1, they would flee China in droves. Well, not the utterly poor people who can't afford to do that, but 67% of Chinese, if I recall correctly, don't come home after studying overseas. Do you think that number is too low? How would that benefit China, or rather, as nanheyangrouchuan would have it, Zhongnanhai? And #2, if they did come home, would they rather contribute to the Chinese economy or would they rather agitate for political change?

I live in the USA. As far as I can tell, history here is taught with a shameless bias, too. Historical movies and dramas reflect that bias, of course. Every now and then someone writes something that exposes the bias, and then the shouting starts about "revisionism."

It's even worse in the South of the USA, which lost the Civil War.

I was born in Germany. I think most Germans know what happened in WW II, and Germany's role in that. It's actually against the law in Germany to deny that history. But there are still many people who will deny that history and spread lies that make Nazi Germany seem less evil.

So from personal experience I know that historical revisionism and censorship of history are common even in countries that claim to be free and open societies. Sometimes it's official, sometimes it's just what "everybody knows," and then there are always people who have their own ideas, based on nationalistic pride and various forms of racism.

The U.S is hella biased. A lot of nationalistic feelings in America.

I hate living here tell you the truth. Especially living in the South. It's crap. Deep down everyone here is racist. I had to constantly listen to the word "chink" here from my so called "teachers."

If I can live comfortably in China I would move back to China. Chinese people are fucking losers for fucking up their own country and becoming 2nd class citizens on the world stage, bunch of worthless losers, but in the end I'm still Chinese.

As for remaining in the States my goal is to get experience and education. I want to get as much possible out this crap hole.

Editor's note (JG): post edited for obscenity

"I live in the USA. As far as I can tell, history here is taught with a shameless bias, too. Historical movies and dramas reflect that bias, of course. Every now and then someone writes something that exposes the bias, and then the shouting starts about "revisionism.""

I can remember as far back as the 1970s schools teaching the truth about the Opium wars, western colonization of the world, missionary conversions and open plundering. Now its gotten to the point where the American White Male is the lone figure responsible for all of mankinds' sufferings and mistakes (though in China the Japanese come in a really close 2nd place. Was it getting beat up by short people, a much smaller country or a better military that was the most humiliating?).

But in the end, that's fine, because that just means that few other cultures can look themselves in the mirror for what they are and try to make up for past wrongs. US and European history lessons aren't perfect, but they are by far more honest than what is taught in most classrooms in the world and most western governments have made genuine if imperfect attempts to make amends with abused aboriginals and former colonies. And you don't have to be a true world traveler to know that, just look at how many tribal, ethnic and religious conflicts are occurring due to what people learned in their history class.

And yes, I did concoct a plan to deconstruct China, albeit peacefully and in a way that is economically beneficial for the new countries that would evolve. Asia would no longer have a 900 lb organ selling, mass murdering, poisonous gorilla hanging over it.


B. Man Hates you.

I hate to bash a Chinese in a place run by foreigners. I hate to bash a Chinese in English in a place run by foreigners even more. But I happen to have run into you at this place, and the concepts I am going to use to bash you are all in English without precise Chinese translations. So here go my advice for ya.
In you I see a loser and who is so pathetically helpless that he has to blame China and the Chinese people for his personal failures. I feel sorry about your miserable life in America, but it is not the Chinese who have made you a second-class citizen in a foreign land. It's not the Americans either. If you keep refusing to do something about your pitiful self-esteem, and try to develop some rudimentary self-respect, I can guarantee you will crawl in the mud for the rest of your life, no matter where you live.
I do not believe anyone would use the word "chink" in your face in the US without any consequences. You can kill me but I just don’t believe such a thing can happen at an education setting in the US, even in the deep south. If it really has happened, then it tells more about you as a loser who cannot defend himself than about American racism. A lot of Americans are racists that's true. But extremely few Americans are stupid; they only trample the weak. They kick your ass only when they are absolutely sure that you don’t have the slightest capability for retaliation. My favorite examples are Saddam and Kim Jun Il. Saddam allowed UN inspectors into his palace to poke around for WMD, but still got American Tanks, boots, and the noose. Kim Jun Il kicked out the last one UN inspector but got negotiations, concessions and economic incentives. Americans have tons of respect and sensitivity to dispense (they can be really sweet, think about Chris Hill), but they don’t have anything good for losers. American respect and sensitivity are provided on demand, and only to those who have earned it. If a white trash "teacher" uses the word Chink in front of me, I can guarantee you that he will lose his job the next day, and move back to the trailer park with the Confederate flag he had come from the next evening.
I must admit I have received way more respect in America than I have in my native China, simply because it is way more complex to figure out how to earn respect in China. Most people in China just have way more social intelligence than me. That's one reason why I am sticking around here. Another reason is that I truly relish the opportunity to go to laiwais home to compete on their turf, in their language and culture, at their game, kick a few asses and take a few names and have a few drinks and learn a lot. By any account I have lost more often than I have won, but it still has been a heck of a time.
I hope my rant does not upset laowai friends here. I don’t have anything against foreigners in China; most of you appear to be harmless, useful and decent people. You guys add color, depth and sophistication to my native country. Moreover, I for one have been hooked to this globalization thing. There are 60 billion people in this world and I want the Chinese to come out to compete with every one of them. Don’t stay home and compete with your 6 loser cousins.

You had international forces forcefully removing nukes from a deconstructed China. How is that peaceful?

You weren't abused like I was. You don't know the crap that I have been through. I have been extremely unlucky to have seen the worst in people (from middle school onward I have experienced some very difficult problems). I even ask my self this question... Why am I the so unlucky. To have experienced this kind of abuse. I can only speak from my experience. My experience in America has been very negative.

That's all I can say.

You cannot judge me. Think whatever you want, but you know deep down there is a lot of hate in America. I guess you choose to ignore it. I can choose to ignore it. But then again you probably weren't abused like I was. I'm the product of many difficult experiences. I suppose that makes me weak, and open to further abuses. It's a viscous cycle that I'm trying to escape from.

A whole lot of alienation that you may or may not understand.

All the incidents I have mentioned above happened. I guess I am weak for letting the abuse go on? A few words doesn't hurt me anymore. What hurts me is that people I respect would do stuff like that do me. I suppose I could do what you suggest and get them fired. But I'm weak. I can't do it. According to you I suppose I deserve to be trampled on because I am weak. Maybe it's because I have been conditioned to become weak minded?

It's a viscous cycle.

I don't think you will understand mental issues like this.

B. Man

If you hate the U.S. so much, move somewhere else. There are a lot of places to get an education and job experience. Canada is really close. If you don't mind going further afield there are places like Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, or Ireland. If you're interested in going somewhere where being Chinese won't be a problem how about Singapore?

I'll agree with you that there is some racism in the South. There's racism everywhere.

How you deal with it is much more important than the racism itself.

Make a change. Get out of that viscious cycle. You can do it. Millions have.

B Man Hates You

I feel really bad now about what I said about you. I apologize, and apologize and apolotize. 对不起,请原谅我的无知残酷和不宽容。I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I know there is a lot of hatred in America. But like the guy upstairs said, there is a lot of hatred everywhere. If they don’t hate you for your race and nationality, they will find some other reason to hate you. I just want every Chinese person to have a backbone and tons of fighting spirit. Backbone and fighting spirit are not something one is borne with, but can be learned through training. You can start from small steps, simple things like changing the way you walk in the streets, looking at people straight in the eye, raising the volume of your voice. If anybody tries to sh*t all over you, pick up the sh*t and throw it right back in his face. Once you get started, you will be amazed by how fast you improve, you will see how pathetically fast people back down.

Don’t go to Canada or anywhere else; running away is never good for anybody's self esteem. Stay where you are right now and fight those a-holes.

I don’t know whether you understand Chinese or Japanese. The following lines from my favorite movie have given me a lot of courage and comfort every time I get into a fight; they help me stay focused and calm. The movie is called ,讲的是日本赤穗浅野家的家臣为主报仇刺杀大名吉良的有名故事。最感人的镜头是高仓健(大石内藏助)在船舱里面对负责保护吉良的武士头领(中井贵一)表白的一段话

“。。。天气寒冷,请用薄酒。。。。
作为武士的我们,
只想勇敢地活着,
完成自己的责任,
请阁下理解我们的处境。。。”

Maybe you find my words totally useless (or even senseless); maybe we are just too different in background. I feel totally inadequate in offering comfort or advice. But I wish you the best luck.

However, I still do not agree with your blaming China and the Chinese, especially considering that you have Chinese blood in your veins. Chinese is your cultural identity and should be a source of strength, not a baggage.

It is not without irony that South Korea is as guilty of historical revisionism as mainland China. Nothing new, here. Pot and kettle continue to meet and call each other "black."

I am chinese and i dont care about sth happened 2000 or so years ago. What worries me more is that Koreans seriously think because their self-proclamed ancestor(China/Korea didnt exist then)owned Dongbei for a short period about 2000 years ago, they have the right to claim Dongbei belongs to Korea in present time.
I just have to scratch my head when i hear cliams like this in K_Forums or on Wikipedia Discussion Sites. Like: Dongbei was Goguryeo-land, therefore the cn gov has to give Dongbei back to Korea.
Äähh...yeah, korean logic is just too unique for me.
Watch out China, somebody in ur neighborhood wants to change ur border and gets his hand on a big chunk of ur land.

"Äähh...yeah, korean logic is just too unique for me.
Watch out China, somebody in ur neighborhood wants to change ur border and gets his hand on a big chunk of ur land. "


This is just nothing but a paranoia of the Chinese kind. Looking at a thriving democracy like South Korea, then look at human rights violating thumb your nose at the world China. Who's going to do what?

I'm bi-cultural and yeah, American's can be biased/racist but it is still better than a lot of other places. You have to deal with the bad and remember the good. We get a lot of benefits in this country that I wouldn't have in either of my countries. That says a lot. Good education, freedom of speech and the ability to live a life of freedom. Follow the laws (the laws of any country for that matter) and you can live a good life. American laws are not as constrained or as damaging to the psyche (or the body) of their population as they are in countries like China, North Korea, or any other country that is oppressive.

I have to add, I came to this country when I was 8 years old. I never experienced any kind of abuse of which you speak. I live in the north (and lived a few years - when I was in my teens) in Kansas -- I still was treated respectfully. Sure I had fights and problems with some kids/people but so did others. Most times though it was people asking me "what did you say" cause my English was not that good. But I'm better and now attending college in Chicago. Working on a Ph.D. in cell biology. Don't have a problem here either. And I would never have had the opportunties to live like this in China or N. Korea.

I am proud of BOTH of my cultures and only wish there were no "revisionist" history on either side of the border. And that is a problem with just about every country - ancient or not.

I love being in this country. I respect the life I have been offered and respect the people/country. Would I ever return to China or N. Korea to live my life -- no! I have a freedom here that I would never experience there.

So to B.Man Hates You -- try to overcome your problems. Look to therapy and others that have also experienced abuse and racism. They can be quite helpful. If that doesn't work then you have to look inside yourself and maybe realize that you may be the problem and nothing is going to help. Then you may want to consider leaving and return to the country that you feel will treat you as you feel you deserve.

"This is just nothing but a paranoia of the Chinese kind. Looking at a thriving democracy like South Korea, then look at human rights violating thumb your nose at the world China. Who's going to do what?"

Well, if u actually go to the wikisite i mentioned or ABC forums, it is a common accepted concept in South Corea that Dongbei actually belongs to Corea and that China wrongly graped it. Even the corean minorities in China think this way. THAT worries me.
I meaned the last sentence in my last post as irony.
And plz spear me of the human right s*t about China.
Democracy is no a guarantee that a country wont start a war. I rather think that a certain nation abuses the words democracy/human rights a little too much as an accuse/justification to occupy other countries out of selfish national interest. I dont see China doing the same.
Oh, if u want to say Tibet...now compare the death figure in I*q with those in Tibet on a daily basis.
I dont think South Korea will be stupid enough to start a war with China simply because they put all their money in China.
Thats it.

Forgive me if I make any trouble to You or any offense,that isn't my intention,but I love that serial on chanel 41,I think it's Korean Tv,it is called "Emperor of the see",and is broadcasted every Sunday evening,I'm Polish and don't speak Korean or Chinees,but love that movie,Please let me know is there any place in Chicago where I could by this movie?
Thanks,Walter.

Everyone must remember that Korean history has only been recently invented. Look at any Korean 'history' book and try to find decent citations from reputable sources. You won't. Bibliographies are typically only Korean sourced and only use recent writings. Why? Korean historians have had to recreate what they believe to be Korean history. In order to get advancement in university or to seem important in a neo-confucianist way, a historian must glorify Korea's past. It is all so nationalistic, it smells of haddock. I have no problem if it is presented a myth, but it ain't history here. History, and true historians, dig up just as much dirt about a country's origins as praise, even more actually. Any foreign historian looking at Korean historical research methodologies would be shocked.

Mike

I see a lot of bruised egos and hurt feelings on all sides of whatever argument it is we've gotten ourselves into. First of all, "historical dramas," you must remember, are dramas first, historical second. Only certain netizens of any stripe will try to claim otherwise (any self-respecting person who uses his/her brain, be he/she Korean, Chinese, American, or otherwise, will realize with a little research that historical dramas are, at best, probably 40% true and 60% fabrication/dramatization).

Secondly, what's with all the Korea-bashing? "Korean history has only been recently invented" is patently untrue, especially since Korea wasn't the only nation recording its history (Chinese and occasionally Japanese states include Korea in their records, which is inevitable given that they are all in such close proximity) and thus, even if many Korean records are no longer extant (thanks in part to the many destructive invasions Korea has resisted over its lengthy history), some have still survived, and records of/about Korea still exist in the records of other neighboring countries. Mike, Korean historians dig up what could be construed as quite a bit of "dirt" on Korean history, but it all depends on what you mean by "dirt" - it was never, nor is it now, any secret that the aristocratic system that dominated Korea near the end of its pre-war history was paternalistic, highly restrictive and socially conservative, vicious to those who flout the rules (look at what happened to the Korean Catholic martyrs of the 17th century); nor is it any secret that court intrigues and inept kings often worked (independently of each other) to weaken the Korean state. What has been relatively unknown, however, are the true origins and impact of the people who inhabited the Korean Peninsula and from whom Koreans (myself included) are descended (or so we think; this may turn out to be not quite accurate either).

Mike, the reason why there isn't much out there on really ancient Korean history yet is simply because a lot of it has been lost over a particularly tumultuous history, and recreating this record is bound to come with its ups and downs. Inevitably, when the study of ancient Korean history (which for the better part of Korea's existence has played the role of social myth rather than an actual historical discipline) is as new as it is (as foreign scholars did not do nearly as much research into Korea's ancient history as they did into China's; Japan's ancient history also largely remains unexplored), you have to take a lot of that research with a grain of salt, as most Koreans (though perhaps not the ones you've encountered so far) in fact do.

As for the issue of Goguryeo, I think, in order to logically resolve the issue, it is reasonable to think of that kingdom and its culture in terms of its relationship to traditionally Chinese nations. And quite distinct from the Qing (who were originally Manchus), Ming, Tang, and so on, Goguryeo appears in Chinese history only as an adversary and a rival state (I'm not implying that Goguryeo and the Sui/Tang Dynasties were equals, just that continuously competed against each other, with Goguryeo for the most part as underdog), not as a "Chinese" dynasty or a Chinese ruling kingdom. Because of this, Goguryeo, historically and culturally speaking, can be reasonably classified not as a Chinese state but rather a Korean one (especially since, when its northern borders would retract, the kingdom would relocate its capital to Pyongyang, which is currently in North Korea).

For those of you who take offense to certain Koreans' claims to what is now Chinese territory, it would do you well to 1) remain calm (I know this is difficult, but remember to stay above your emotions) and 2) remember that there was such a thing as "right of conquest," by which Chinese states have indeed gained the right to occupy and administer Manchuria, and by which any Korean state has subsequently lost any claim to southern Manchuria (and therefore, the claims of these certain netizens, who I can guarantee you are a minute though perhaps vocal minority, are legally baseless and thus you should not get so angry about them). While this does not give China the right to meddle in Korean affairs as it has constantly attempted to do throughout history (and currently does today), that is for another discussion.

Walter:

You can buy Emperor of the Sea online here

Or watch the first season online here.

Koreans are known as the biggest history revisionists in Asia. On top of that, their soaps suck. I don't watch them.

BBC1:

Due to your sour comment, it seems that we may have gotten our feelings hurt at one time. Get over it. Dramas/soaps historical or not are fictional!

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