Video Games & North Korea: Five words I never thought would go together

This is only a short opinion piece of mine, (obviously, I mean, who else’s is it going to bloody well be?) partially because I don’t want to say anything more ignorant, foolish or condescending, than I already will be doing, but mainly because I’ve been away from Payday 2 for a few hours now, whilst working on this and a few other things, and I’m already starting to feel withdrawals.

The Daily NK, a South Korean magazine of some repute, has recently reported on the growth of video games in their northern neighbouring country. Apparently the main problem of this emerging hobby, are the intermittent power cuts which terrorise the country. Though they have managed to avert this problem through the use of battery power, I find myself pretty surprised by the nonchalant style of reporting that the Daily NK has taken to this news.

I don’t know why, but I never imagined the blackout zone of the world to be a big consumer of video games. I mean, North Korea has a kind of world-wide image, that of, and no offence to any die-hard NK fans out there (most of whom live in North Korea, I’m sure), some kind of uncaring, warped example of a country, based around the idea of Hereditary Dictatorship, or even an absolute Monarchy. The country (as I’m sure you are aware), has built somewhat of a cult of personality around the person of Kim Il-Sung and, after his death, around that of his son Kim Jong-Il. Now of course, it is …… in the saddle, as it were and, despite a few nuclear threats, he seems to have relaxed a little on the insane anti-social aspect of the country.

There have been images released, like the one below, which show happy North Korean families playing in an arcade, as though they were on a family holiday to Blackpool! When I think of the Democratic Worker’s Party of North Korea, I think of the young girls crowding around whichever member of the Kim family is currently in charge, I think of rank after rank of identical Korean soldier marching down some road clearly designed for the sole purpose of being marched down, and the unbearable poverty which a great deal of the country seems to reside in, judging by every other image I have seen anyway. Seeing NK children cheerfully blasting away at a screen reminiscent of the Time Crisis or House of the Dead series’ I enjoyed during the odd visit to the arcade is not something I ever expected to see.


I think I’m happy to see it though. Although I know very little about politics (unless I’ve had a drink or two, which is when I basically turn into someone with all of the views, but none of the talent, of Billy Bragg), I do find it odd that, whilst the rumblings of nuclear war emerge from the dark, dismal hole that is North Korea, images of this style are following them.

I have no doubt, due to the appalling divide of wealth in this country; these families enjoying the arcade are on the wealthier side, but even so I find myself hoping against hope that, for once, these images emerging from North Korea are less likely to be some kind of deliberate world-publication, to show how normal NK is as a country, and instead simply by what they appear, families enjoying games together. Obviously, I doubt it. They do seem staged; there are too many smiles for a normal image, unless each member of the crowd is so amazed by the games they have, that they forget, even for a moment, the cult of personality which rules their country.

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