China is no fan of hip-hop culture or tattoos. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) has deemed both as “tasteless, vulgar and obscene.” The ban states that actors and entertainers with tattoos or even depicting tattoos, will not be allowed on broadcast television. It has already begun to impact Chinese rappers. So what does this mean for K-pop in China, which is heavily influenced by hip-hop culture? Possibly nothing. Possibly everything.
K-pop is indisputably influenced by hip-hop culture. Even aegyo-style K-pop has some semblance of American hip-hop since almost every group has a “rapper” with rap-like verses (it’s hard to call some of it rap). So it’s probably safe to assume some Korean artists might be impacted. Particularly artists that proudly flaunt their ink like the G-Dragon and Taeyang of the worldwide phenom group, Big Bang. What’s even more important is that not only are tattoos prohibited, but anyone with a questionable reputation is also barred from appearing on Chinese broadcast television.
SAPPRFTs publicity department director, Gao Changli, elaborated more on the ban with these guidelines on who CANNOT appear on television:
- Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble
- Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar and obscene
- Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class
- Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals and problematic moral integrity
These rules seem to be subjective. So it’s not clear if the ban relates to only visible tattoos, like in the case of G-Dragon, or if hidden tattoos might be acceptable, like with Taeyang. It also wasn’t mentioned if the ban will affect other forms of entertainment such as internet content, concert promotions, or other in-person events. However, it could possibly limit how often Chinese fans will be able to enjoy programming with some of their K-pop idols. Considering the already strained relationship between the Chinese government and South Korea because of THAAD activities, which was only recently mended, this new announcement could certainly serve as another reason China sees a decline in K-pop activities.
Since China is one of the leading consumers of K-pop, a blow like this could be devastating to the market. When all things Korean were essentially prohibited in China, South Korean entertainment companies had to target other countries to make up for the lost revenue. Now that things have changed and K-pop has started to show up in China again, it’s probably concerning for entertainment companies to have to rethink things again due to the new rules. However, international fans may very well benefit from this change as companies will start to seek out ways to recoup the revenue, and that means more events in more locations.
Ultimately, it’s all speculation at this point, but definitely worth monitoring to see who wins and who loses with these new government-imposed standards that exclude many of our favorite idols.
Side note: To deem a whole culture as “tasteless, vulgar and obscene” is disappointing, to say the least, especially considering the roots of hip-hop. Maybe SAPPRFT should consider why their youth are drawn to the music in the first place. That would probably be step one in solving whatever issue they are trying to prevent by imposing these standards.
What do you think of China’s ban on hip-hop culture and tattoos? Do you think it will cause bands to seek out activities in other countries? Let’s discuss more in the comments.