Illegal Distribution of K-Dramas Persists in China Despite Restrictions
In a region where global OTT platforms like Netflix and Disney+ are not officially available, illegal distribution of Korean content continues to thrive. Following the success of Netflix’s original series ‘The Glory,’ produced in South Korea, the illegal circulation of Disney+ series ‘Moving’ has also been accurately documented.
Remarkably, on the Chinese content review site Douban, a dedicated ‘Moving’ review page has been established, featuring over 39,000 reviews and counting. Currently, the series ‘Moving’ boasts an impressive rating of 8.8 out of 10 on Douban, with nearly 38,000 user reviews.
Douban is not limited to ‘Moving’ alone; it also hosts illegal distributions of other Korean content, including Netflix originals such as ‘The Glory,’ ‘Squid Game,’ and ENA’s ‘The Bizarre Lawyer Woo Young Woo.’
Since the implementation of the so-called “Hallyu ban” in China, following the 2016 THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system dispute, the majority of official routes for distributing Korean content within China have been blocked. However, the demand for Korean content persists, leading to the ongoing issue of illegal distribution. This illicit market extends beyond content piracy to include counterfeit merchandise, unauthorized use of celebrities’ images, and even the production of related merchandise.
Efforts to combat this issue involve both official distribution companies like Netflix and Disney+ and governmental interventions, but progress has been limited. Stringent operating policies within China have constrained enforcement capabilities.
The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has been strengthening its response to the problem of illegal distribution of popular Korean content in China. The Copyright Monitoring Team of the Ministry’s Overseas Office has been actively identifying and removing illegal URLs, not only in China but also in countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
In the case of ENA’s ‘The Bizarre Lawyer Woo Young Woo,’ cooperation with broadcasting companies has enabled rights delegation, leading to collaboration with Chinese authorities and the provision of evidence for content removal.
However, Netflix’s ‘The Glory’ and Disney+’s ‘Moving’ present unique challenges, as they are owned by foreign entities. Without rights delegation, reporting as a third party can result in delays in addressing the issue. Currently, authorities are in the process of requesting the blocking of 47 related websites, with 25 of them already closed.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism plans to develop an overseas copyright monitoring system by December. The South Korean government is engaged in close discussions with China, with plans to establish a hotline among broadcasting rights holders by 2025 to facilitate a more immediate response to such issues.