Murdoch and North Korea partner up for games venture

Rupert Murdoch and Kim Jong-Il have teamed up to boost North Korea’s fledgling games industry, one of a few industries most of the world didn’t know it had.

The games were developed by the General Federation of Science and Technology in North Korea, making them a state-run business, but then that’s not much of a surprise in the tightly-controlled environment of North Korea. They were then marketed by Nosotek Joint Venture Company, ending up being published by a subsidiary of News Corp.

The games are far from top-sellers, but they are based on several big name films, including 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski and Men In Black. North Korea developed a mobile bowling game based on the pivotal scenes in Lebowski, while the Men In Black game was called “Alien Assault”.

The choice of games may have no significance, but because it’s a state-run venture we cannot help put wonder if Dear Leader actually likes to be called The Dude instead, or if he believes North Korea’s real threat is from aliens and not Americans.

A big problem arising from the investment, however, is that News Corp may now suffer scrutiny from America and Europe, as it appears Murdoch is actively investing in the country while Obama and others are increasing sanctions. It is not illegal to invest in North Korean companies under United Nations sanctions providing they are not linked with the arms trade, but it is still likely to upset a number of people who might consider it an endorsement of the Pyongyang regime.

“From the government’s point of view, foreign currency is the main reason to nurture and support these activities,” said Andrei Lankov, a scholar on North Korea in Kookmin University, Seoul. “These activities help to fund the regime, but at the same time they bring knowledge of the outside world to people who could effect change.”

This is a very important point, as while the money is undoubtedly going towards Pyongyang’s coffers, the extra exposure with the outside world might be just what is needed to help its beleaguered people.

North Korea has been slowly creeping onto the digital map lately with the establishment of Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube accounts, not to mention the registration of over a thousand IP addresses. However, it still restricts its citizens severely, who only have access to a closed-off state intranet. At least they can do a spot of virtual bowling or alien hunting. That’s something.