Video Game Policy Used as Political Retaliation? China’s New Korean Game Ban

China recently banned the release of all upcoming South Korean-made video games. Why? The government isn’t happy with the brand new missile defense system South Korea is building. Did cocktail arcade games ever get this political?

What Is THAAD?

South Korea has partnered with the U.S. to install THAAD, short for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, as a protection against escalating missile tests from North Korea. The system is expected to be deployed as early as April. THAAD is an American system that’s designed to target and shoot short and intermediate range missiles. After much debate, South Korea and the U.S. have agreed that recent aggressive behavior from North Korea warrants the installation of this system.

Why the Ban?

China isn’t pleased with the decision to install THAAD. China believes that the THAAD system is able to use radar to track the location of China’s missile systems. They argue this gives the U.S. a powerful advantage and Beijing is dictating policies that disrupt South Korea’s economy as a result.

China is South Korea’s main source of trade and commerce, so new policy developments have the potential to severely damage South Korea’s economy. Chinese travel agencies no longer sell tickets to South Korea. Beijing is calling for the boycott of South Korean movies and music. And the latest development is the complete ban of any video games developed in South Korea.

It already is quite difficult for foreign developers to have games approved for sale in China. The game must meet state approval and developers must pay for licenses. Now, South Korean developers are completely banned from the process. The ban doesn’t include games already released in China, but no new licenses will be issued for forthcoming South Korean game titles.

How Will This Affect the Gaming Market?

Unfortunately for South Korean game developers, it’s unlikely that either the Chinese or South Korean governments will back down on their policy directions, although South Korea has recently suggested they may file a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization. South Korean game developers will have to expand to other markets instead of focusing their efforts on China.