In a regime as controlled as the Democratic Republic of North Korea I thought the concept of gaming culture would be non-existent. At best I expected to find an underground sub-culture who risks life and limb to engage in online and digital gaming. I started my investigation and found limited information to help confirm and expand my understanding of this culture in North Korea. There were some newspaper articles, such as The Telegraph’s, North Korea internet users ‘downloading Top Gear and porn’
(Tuesday 16 September 2014). This article mentioned the strict isolationist measures and speculated on the legitimacy of claims that games, TV shows and pornography had been downloaded from IP address within the country.
A Korean News article, Foreign laptops increasingly popular item for North Korean middle class (Phebe Kim, 10th July, 2014) discussed in detail the increasing movement of foreign laptops into North Korea and the fact that these were only available to the elite class of citizens who could afford the expensive items. The article quoted sources (defectors) who stated that video games were being played.
Computers are also popular with young people that watch DVDs, listen to music, and play video games. Jimin states, “As children of elite families] use more advanced computers to play games, they can be tempted to become like those game addicts that are often mentioned in South Korea.”
This information does not mention or allude to the existence of an underground gaming culture in North Korea but given the prodigious engagement of the western societies in the digital gaming environment it is only logical that this leaks into the North Korean society. Supporting this is the increasing engagement of neighboring countries – Japan, China and South Korea which makes access to contraband digital products less of an obstacle. In addition to this, I have already mentioned the public execution of citizens in North Korea for possessing copies of movie, TV and other foreign digital products. If people are going to risk persecution and death for old TV shows they certainly would for the digital gaming experience.
North Korea’s first video game –
Online commentators marveled at the backward design despite the existence of many online resources which would produce an infinitely better quality. North Koreas are definitely going underground for quality.