Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ask a Korean! News! - North Korean Arcades are Incredibly Sad

You are a strapping North Korean child. Your parents are middling officers of the Central Party, so you have escaped the dire starvation that afflicts the peasants. Heck, you might even have some coins to spend. It's been a long day of saluting, marching, shooting, and singing the glory of the Great Leader and the Dear Leader. Now you are bored. What do you do?

Go to the arcade, of course.

March to the nearest "Hall of Entertainment", which is frankly fancier than any "Entertainment Room" (direct translation of 오락실, South Korean term for arcade) that the Korean has ever visited. Most of the arcades in South Korea are in a cramped, sunless basement. North Korean arcade seems to be large, well-ventilated, and sunny. All thanks to the Dear Leader.

Let's see what's inside.

Okay, the racing game looks a little crowded, that's okay....

Who needs car racing when you can play the most AWESOME torpedo firing game????

The submarine got captured by the South Joseon Puppets (남조선 괴뢰)? That's ok, you can bomb the imperialists from the air instead.

Once their buildings are bombed, shoot them with your handgun.

Even grown-ups are getting ready for the day of reckoning.

When it gets real sunny, some machines need ventilation as well.

In all seriousness, the Korean does not know what to think about these pictures. They are mind-blowing. On one hand, the crappiness of the games are pretty incredible. They all look like some old machines at a motel in a town called Bumfuck in a Big Square State, where Ryu and Ken fight in crazy technicolor caused by the deteriorating monitor. And why can't North Koreans come up with a more attractive Korean font than the ones that look like it was written with a calligraphy brush?

On the other hand, it is still interesting that at least some North Korean children (and adults, apparently) get to play video games. The Korean feels that in many ways, the 2-bit arcade games of the 1980s were superior to all the fancy stuff that the kids play now. And North Koreans get to enjoy it, for whatever that's worth.

Incredible pictures (and the most apt headline) from Gizmodo, via UK: Resistance. Many thanks to the Korean Brother for sending the link.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. To be fair, it's just one arcade. There may be other, better ones. Probably not though. When I was there, I didn't see any. The machines there seem pretty old don't they? It stands to reason that this isn't cutting edge.

    One has to bear in mind that the DPRK doesn't trade with anyone, so it's not like they could just buy some machines from Sega. These machines had to have been constructed from scratch. When you consider that they're having trouble with food shortages, it's quite amazing that they had the resources spare to make these.

    As for the lame font, well, what do you expect? After all, they're not having to fight other arcade game manufacturers for your quarter (or "jon" in this case), so they don't need garish fonts.

    I've not been into a South Korean arcade, but I would imagine it's as overloading on the senses as a Western one, only more so.

    Now so I don't sound like a complete downer/rationalist/apologist, here's some punchlines for you. Just supply your own joke.

    Alien vs Predatory Imperialist Dog, Indiana Jong Il and the Temple of Doom...

    Dance Dance Communist Revolution

  2. kodabar,

    NK did trade with Soviet Russia and China for a while. The Korean would hazard a guess that those machines are old Soviet machines. (Shown in a different Gizmodo post: Link

    But +1 for all the jokes. DDCR was a nice touch. Here is some of the Korean's own...

    Virtual Revolutionary Fighter 4 - now with 2D action!

    Gulags & Dragons

    FIFA 1968

  3. They were clearly not built from scratch. The Korean sign is new, the rest is 30 years old. The shooting game is American. The sitting down ones are Japanese. It would be interesting if they were able to program out the foreign languages.


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