Don’t Look for Homefront in South Korea

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The controversial video game, Homefront, is revealing more about the real South Korea than its fictional North Korea ever could. First, there’s that ugly South Korean censorship habit.

 

According to South Korea’s state-run Game Rating Board (GRB), THQ has not filed the required paperwork for the game to be sold here. By law, all video and computer games must undergo a review from the GRB before being sold here. Queries sent multiple times to THQ via e-mail received no reply.

The controversial video game, Homefront, is revealing more about the real South Korea than its fictional North Korea ever could. First, there’s that ugly South Korean censorship habit.

 

According to South Korea’s state-run Game Rating Board (GRB), THQ has not filed the required paperwork for the game to be sold here. By law, all video and computer games must undergo a review from the GRB before being sold here. Queries sent multiple times to THQ via e-mail received no reply.

The South Korean game rating board in the past has blocked sales of North Korea-themed games, such as Ghost Recon 2 and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which depict North Koreans as diabolical enemies. The strict regulatory control, however, does not mean that South Korean gamers have no access to Homefront. They can easily purchase smuggled versions through local game parlors. Yonhap News Agency had no problem purchasing a copy of the game at a videogame retailer in Seoul, but some shop owners were clearly discreet, worried about a possible crackdown by regulators.

A game parlor in southern Seoul where smuggled copies of Homefront can be purchased. The Homefront is banned from sale in South Korea as it hasn’t been rated by the state game rating agency. An owner of one shop in an electronics shopping arcade in southern Seoul said that anyone who sells the game can face up to a fine of 1.5 million won (US$14,000). “Its impossible to have the game on for advertising purposes, as shoppers can hear profanity in Korean coming out of the television,” the owner said, asking to remain anonymous. When asked about the game, another shop owner offered to sell a used copy but soon rescinded the offer and refused to be interviewed.

 

And then, there’s how South Koreans think of the game itself.

 

Responses here are generally mixed, with some taking note of how grisly Koreans are cast as war criminals. Others laud the plot as refreshing, noting that Americans are cast as the weak, as opposed in real life. Mim Myung-min, a South Korean gamer, wrote on the gaming Web site Ruliweb.com that he was disturbed by the image of Korean soldiers who kill civilians in a way comparable to that of the Nazis during World War II. What was more alarming, he said, was the fact that the antagonists aren’t just North Koreans soldiers but of the unified Korea.

“I was very worried that the antagonists were bluntly called the Korea Army, not North Koreans. I’m very concerned that gamers would absorb the images (of the brutal Koreans) at their face value,” he said.

 

Homefront might appall the experts with its improbably simplistic plot premise, but in its own humble way it says volumes about how far South Korea has yet to go to become a confident and modern country.

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Filed under: Business/Economy, Gaming, Human Rights, Korea Tagged: censorship, homefront, kim jong un, north korea, South Korea



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