Fourteen-year-old who fled North Korea says all his friends have played western games.

When asked to imagine what North Korean citizens do for fun, one’s mind might wander to kids coloring in books with their box of 36 shades of grey crayons, or playing with a doll made of onions. Even if one were to hear they had video games there you might imagine some Soviet-era system that runs on steam and only plays Burger Time… which, come to think of it, sounds pretty awesome.

But according to a Daily NK Japan interview with Jeong Hyung-min (pseudonym), a teenage defector from Hyesan City in the Ryanggang province of the secretive state, many of the popular games from around the world are also enjoyed there on the down low. He says that games are smuggled in on USB sticks along with movies and Korean TV dramas, in much the same way a kid might hide his porn stash from his parents — by simply changing the file extensions.

▼ Underneath this facade of a quaint looking mountain town lies a hotbed of gaming.

Wikipedia/xue siyang

It is unclear where the games come from. Many are sourced from South Korea because of the common language, but according to Jeong the common rumor is that they arrive from China.

When asked what games he had access to Jeong said, “too many to count,” citing Grand Theft Auto V, FIFA Online, and IGI 2: Covert Strike as examples. FIFA Online poses a unique challenge in that no one there has access to the Internet to play it properly.

Because of Internet restrictions in North Korea, you shouldn’t expect to encounter a DPR citizen during a Call of Duty deathmatch in your own country. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and to circumvent this limitation North Korean kids are going old-school with LAN parties in which friends all bring their computers to one room and connect with each other to play multiplayer games.

▼ Ain’t no party like a North Korean LAN party, ’cause a North Korean LAN party don’t quit!
(NOTE: Picture is just an example of a LAN party and clearly not in North Korea)


Japanese readers of the news were surprised to learn of this prevalent hobby among North Korean youth.

“They have PCs that can run GTA?!”
“Interesting, they like GTA V which promotes anti-social behavior and IGI which is an assassination game. Why are they playing those?”
“Maybe North Korea is allowing GTA because it depicts the USA as a lawless, violent, and corrupt society.”
“Can those games even fit on a USB?”
“They play FIFA Online even though they can’t go online?”
“Great! Let’s keep pumping them full of games and movies and spark a revolution there.”

Regarding the quality of computers there, according to a 37-year-old defector also interviewed by Daily NK Japan, parents consider computers to be a sound investment in their children’s educations. So they might be more motivated to splurge a great deal of their funds on higher-end ones capable of running relatively modern games such as Grand Theft Auto.

And while it’s not reading, writing, and arithmetic, GTA V does provide valuable lessons for the kids of North Korea. Weapons dealing and smuggling are some of the most lucrative career options when living in a totalitarian dictatorship, and it provides a good example of how one might network their way into those fields.

Soccer is good for them too though.

Source: Daily NK Japan, My Game News Flash
Top image: YouTube/Rockstar Games