Under China's eye: Korean music companies exercise caution with Taiwanese K-pop stars

With controversies in recent years, and Beijing more sensitive than ever about Taiwan, Taiwanese idols may be a liability for K-pop outfits

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New K-pop group 'Cherry Bullet' with Taiwanese member 'Lin-lin' (rear left)

New K-pop group 'Cherry Bullet' with Taiwanese member 'Lin-lin' (rear left)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Major music corporations in Korea are coming under increased scrutiny by Chinese government officials for the language used to describe K-Pop stars from Taiwan.

According to Korea Bizwire, following Beijing’s recent list of 66 Fortune 500 companies who were using "incorrect labels" for Taiwan, music agencies in South Korea have likewise become a target of increased scrutiny for use of “terminology that seems to uphold Taiwan’s independence,” in reference to Taiwanese K-Pop stars.

If a company is too direct about a Taiwanese star’s background, or is considered by Chinese authorities to be overtly promoting a Taiwanese nationality, then the company could risk being shut out of the Chinese market entirely.

The four most notable K-pop idols working in the South Korean music industry are currently “TWICE’s Tzuyu, Wanna One’s Lai Kuan-lin, (G)I-DLE’s Shuhua, and Cherry Bullet’s Linlin,” reports Korea Bizwire.

In early 2016, Chou Tzu-yu became the center of a controversy over Taiwanese nationality that engulfed the K-Pop world, when a 2015 video from a TV program showed her happily smiling at Taiwanese flag next to a Korean flag.


The image of Tzu-yu that sparked controversy in the K-pop world and international politics.

The video, which was sensationalized in Jan. 2016, just days before Taiwan’s Presidential election, was declared as evidence that Tzu-yu was supporting the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Lai Kuan-lin was also embroiled in controversy and the target of anger in Taiwan after declaring he hailed from “Chinese Taipei” in 2017.

Following these incidents, and with China’s ever-increasing sensitivity towards Taiwan, and Taiwan’s representation internationally, music companies and K-pop stars feel they must be more careful than ever, to avoid what they consider to be a very sensitive topic.

Korea Bizwire quotes an unnamed source within the Korean music industry.

“For future business in China, we don’t have a choice but to stay careful. Both China and Taiwan are important markets for us. Since nationality is a very sensitive issue at the moment, we are trying to avoid talking about it as much as possible.”

Korea Bizwire notes the recent example of Cherry Bullet, an up and coming K-Pop group who made their first televised performance debut on Monday, Jan. 24.

During a Q&A, three Japanese members of the group were asked about their nationality, and were quick to recognize Japan, however the other foreign member of the group, Linlin, was somewhat conspicuously never asked the same question.