Beijing Tears Down Samsung, Hyundai Billboards Overnight

  • By Lee Kil-seong

    July 01, 2019 13:09

    Beijing authorities abruptly took down all billboards for Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors on the major thoroughfare of Changan Avenue overnight on Saturday.

    The billboards were the Korean conglomerates' property, but they were taken down without notice or offer of compensation.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping made a commitment to "a fair, just and non-discriminatory market environment" at the G20 Summit in Osaka over the weekend and asked Washington for "negotiations based on equality and mutual respect." But in reality China often rides roughshod over contracts with foreign companies and shamelessly promotes its own.

    Workers take down billboards for Kia on Beijing's Changan Avenue on Saturday.

    In the dramatic action, some 300 to 400 wrecking crew were mobilized to remove all of about 120 bus stop billboards the Korean companies had erected on the east and west sides of Changan street. They started at around 10 p.m. Saturday and took until the early morning using huge cranes and equipment.

    In July last year, the Beijing city government also forcibly removed about 70 billboards the three Korean firms had set up on the central part of the same street. IMS, a Korean agency, had signed a contract with the city to manage the billboards until 2025.

    IMS has been demanding compensation since the first removal campaign, but to no avail. If the aim was to improve the look of the street, the city government has yet to offer an explanation.

    The billboards have advertised Samsung, Hyundai and Kia products since 2012, the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. IMS even remodeled them at the cost of billions of won at the Beijing city government's request in 2015, when a parade was held to mark the 70th anniversary of China's victory over Japan in World War II (US$1=W1,156).

    At the time, the city extended the contract, which was due to expire in late 2017, until December 2025. The removal will cost IMS billions of won.

    The Korean Embassy in Beijing has several times asked the city government and the Chinese Commerce Ministry for compensation but was stonewalled, an embassy staffer said Sunday.

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