Whether South Korean cultural products, which were banned by Beijing following a dispute over Seoul’s decision to allow the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country, will be permitted to enter China again depends on how Chinese people “feel” about the matter, an official told reporters in Beijing on Friday.

“Cultural exchange is not the same as the ordinary trade of goods; it involves Chinese people’s preference and emotional choice,” Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television, said in a media briefing at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. “It is an exchange with ‘temperature,’ which comes from people’s heart and feeling.”

Zhang said when Chinese people feel an emotional connection with a country, cultural exchanges occur more smoothly.

In September 2016, South Korea announced that it would allow the US to set up the THAAD, an anti-ballistic missile defense system, in its territory. In November, China’s foreign ministry said South Korea’s decision caused the people of China emotional distress, which prompted a ban on the country’s cultural products.

On Friday morning, a reporter from Kyunghyang Shinmun, a South Korean newspaper, asked when China will lift its ban on K-pop products.

Zhang responded by saying he believed there was still a healthy level of cultural exchange between South Korea and China, pointing out that many Chinese actors had attended the recent Busan International Film Festival.

China’s box office

Zhang said China’s box office takings reached 49.28 billion yuan (US$7.44 billion) last year, compared with 17 billion yuan in 2012. He added that there has been double-digit growth so far this year.

He said the number of moviegoers in China had reached 1.37 billion so far this year, which is similar to the figure for all of 2016.

Zhang also said that China will continue its efforts to protect foreign companies’ intellectual property rights in the country.