Many South Koreans were unhappy about a plan to construct a Chinatown in Gangwon Province, and some launched a petition on the Blue House’s Web site, calling for the project’s cancelation. Due to the public outcry, Kolon Global Corp late last month announced that it was scrapping the project.
Meanwhile, several South Korean dramas have been criticized by audiences for Chinese-funded product placement or having too many Chinese elements in the shows. Some who found TV drama series Joseon Exorcist to be highly offensive petitioned for its cancelation. All of the sponsors eventually withdrew, and to avoid public anger, the series was canceled after the first two episodes aired in March.
The two petitions highlighted South Koreans’ concerns over China’s “Northeast Project,” or the Serial Research Project on the History and Current State of the Northeast Border.
The Northeast Project was a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the three provinces of Northeast China from 2002 to 2007.
It researched the role that the ancient Korean Peninsula — including Gojoseon, Goguryeo and Bohai, known as Balhae in Korean — played in Chinese history, and aimed to strengthen how China’s Korean ethnic group identified with its Chinese ethnic group.
The project’s consolidation of Chinese nationalism and academic research irritated South Koreans, and they fear a new rendition of the project. Disputes with China over the origins of kimchi and hanbok (traditional Korean dress) have reminded them of the Northeast Project’s invasiveness and distortions, but with a cultural twist.
South Koreans’ sensitivity toward Chinese cultural warfare and their reaction to it could serve as an example for Taiwanese.
Chinese films, dramas, music, games and social media are almost everywhere in Taiwan, and some Taiwanese students have gotten used to writing in simplified Chinese characters on China’s popular Xiaohongshu (“little red book,” 小紅書) fashion platform.
In March, the National Security Bureau revealed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been training nearly 1,000 Taiwanese Internet celebrities and YouTubers in preparation for a cognitive warfare against young Taiwanese.
Normal cultural exchanges are unlikely to be so dangerous, but China can turn everything into a tool for its “united front” work. Taiwanese would be naive to think that “culture is culture, politics is politics.”
In addition to suppressing Taiwanese art and entertainment, the true seriousness of cultural warfare lies in the effects it has on Taiwanese’s cultural identity.
Such warfare seeks to strengthen how Taiwanese identify with China and promote good feelings between the two, while numbing them to Beijing’s persistent ambition to annex Taiwan by force.
As Taiwanese and Chinese use the same language to communicate, and China is endowed with a stunning amount of capital, it is impossible for Taiwan to fend off Chinese culture in today’s Internet era.
While South Korea scrapped a TV drama series that cost 32 billion won (US$28.5 million) to protect its culture, Taiwanese cannot reach a consensus on Beijing’s cognitive warfare, let alone start a discussion on how to prevent it from invading Taiwanese culture.
Nevertheless, Taiwanese must be aware of the cultural aspect of “united front” tactics and consider the national security side of culture.
This is a critical first step for building an effective defense against Beijing’s cognitive warfare.
Wu Cheng-yin is a software engineer.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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