Kangwon Province in central South Korea was to cooperate with China to build a large-scale Chinese cultural city covering an area of about 1.2 million square meters at a cost of $1 billion, scheduled to be completed in 2022 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and China and to attract Chinese tourists. However, due to the strong anti-China sentiment, more than 600,000 people signed a petition on the presidential office’s Cheong Wa Dae website, demanding the withdrawal of the “Cultural Belt and Road”, and Kolon Global Corporation, which is responsible for the development project, was finally forced to announce the cancellation of the project on the 27th. On the 27th, Kolon Global Corporation, which is responsible for the development project, was finally forced to announce the cancellation of the project.
The South Korean and Chinese media reported that Gangwon Province is a tourist destination in South Korea, with the capital city of Chuncheon. The Gangwon Province government and the Chinese side signed an agreement in 2019 to build South Korea’s largest “Chinese complex cultural city” in the area of Chuncheon City and Hongcheon County, estimated to be four times the size of Incheon’s Chinatown (300,000 square meters).
According to the report, this Chinese cultural city is a large-scale integrated park that combines Chinese tourism needs and South Korean culture. The original plan includes the construction of traditional Chinese streets, gardens, Shaolin Temple, a snack street, and a theme park for Korean wave images. The project, from planning to product development and advertising, was handled by the People’s Daily website, the portal of the Chinese Communist Party, and the Gangwon Provincial Government was only responsible for providing administrative support such as business-related permits and designating a real estate investment system. The Chinese side is responsible for most of the project, except for construction work and some content planning.
In order to solve the problem of accommodation for Chinese tourists, Gangwon Province will also build a 15-story luxury hotel. The governor of Gangwon Province, Choi Man-shun, insisted that the project is a tourism construction project invested by a private company, not a “Chinatown” where Chinese people live en masse, but it still failed to convince the public. Those who launched a petition against the project on Cheong Wa Dae’s website criticized China for distorting South Korean history and denigrating cultures such as kimchi and hanbok. They oppose the establishment of a place to promote Chinese culture on South Korean soil and fear that the project will destroy prehistoric sites in Chuncheon City.
In addition, the Chinese luxury hotel built on the prehistoric site is near the South Korean Army’s 11th Division and related military facilities.
Korean-American civil rights activist Kim Se-sun told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the pro-China South Korean government of Moon Jae-in has low support among the people, especially young people, and that the controversy between South Korea and China over the cultural origins of kimchi and Korean costumes has led to a rise in anti-China sentiment in South Korean society. In the eyes of many South Koreans, the development plan will lay the groundwork for further Chinese expansion and fuel Chinese nationalism in South Korea.
Kim Se-sun also said that the South Korean media has given a lot of coverage to the protest movement in Hong Kong, and the public generally supports the protesters in Hong Kong, and that the South Korean public is deeply disgusted by China’s “Belt and Road”, which is always used to expand its influence on the grounds of cultural exchanges.
The Australian government also announced on the 21st that it would cancel the “Belt and Road” agreement between Victoria and Beijing on the grounds that it was not in line with its foreign policy and national interests. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin angrily criticized Australia’s lack of sincerity in improving relations between the two sides and threatened to retaliate.