As you might be aware, North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war. As a result, South Korean men are obligated to spend two years in military service. This requirement can be waived if one has a religious or personal objection to war, violence, or simply holding a weapon — i.e., professing to be a pacifist — thus exempting one from military service. In February, men who professed such beliefs but were jailed nonetheless were released, following a decision by the Korean Supreme Court in November.

What does all this have to do with video games? Yonhap News Agency is reporting that 11 of these “conscientious objectors” are having their gaming history examined to determine if they regularly partake of violent video games, thus nullifying their stated personal beliefs and potentially landing them back in prison for dodging their state-mandated military service.

Eight games were specifically targeted as being “violent” by the Ulsan prosecutor’s office and excluding their players from a military service exemption via reasons of pacifism: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Sudden Attack, Special Force, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Overwatch, Diablo, League of Legends and StarCraft.

An official from the prosecutor’s office stated that they don’t intend to take measures against people who played such games “once or twice” but “if the objectors are found to have violent traits based on the length and number of times they have played the games, it can be used as evidence to dismiss their claims.”

The government’s actions are, unsurprisingly, being challenged by a number of opposing viewpoints. First, there’s the issue of privacy that comes with digging into people’s gaming history, which might be difficult to obtain, “as gaming firms only saves players’ data for around six months,” Yonhap reported.

Then there’s the and all-too-often-talked-about-in-other-countries supposed link between playing violent video games and having a desire to commit acts of violence. Even if one believes that to be true, some of the games selected for scrutiny seem questionable. “Realistic” shooters like Call of Duty or PUBG are understandable, but League of Legends and StarCraft? That sounds to me like simply the government adding them to the list just because they’re likely to entrap people due to their overwhelming popularity.

Even if we take those games’ cartoonish semi-violence seriously, it will be difficult to prove that playing such games represents a deviation from one’s personal beliefs. Most of us are against violence, on some basic level, but that doesn’t mean we won’t play games where killing is commonplace. Or, if you pursue a same-sex or adulterous relationship in a game, does that make you desirous of the same things in real life?

It seems unlikely that these cases will go anywhere, and that’s good news for gamers in any country. We’re long past the days when trials by fire would be commonplace, so let’s not start having trials by Steam.

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

5 COMMENTS

  1. It’s always the video games. Why not examine the movies they’ve watched, the books they’ve read, the songs they’ve listened to? -_- Truly, gamers are the least protected group, right along with atheists…

    • Simply cause this, when you watch a movie you are WATCHING people do things. When you play a video game, it is YOU that controls your actions and what you do. Like you can play an mmo, but you don’t have to kill other players, hell you have a choice to not play violent games, and by choosing to play said violent games, it means you intent to do said violent things.

      Ofcourse I don’t really agree with this, but this is more or less the rationale of it. Its like old times where there were gladiatorial pits. The spectators were not seen as savages, but just merely people wanting to have a good time. Where as the fighters themselves, may be seen as savages or blood thirsty, especially the ones who wanted to fight. But when said gladiators leave the ring they were decent people who don’t wish harm to anyone, but to the spectators they are still seen as violent.

      Sorry for the long analogy.

    • Because pc gaming doesnt have an overlord sitting on top of it to protect it. Attack movies? Hollywood. Attack books? Publishers. Songs? Labels. Thus its easy to attack video games on pc. I mean who is going to help gamers when no one i controlling the market. MS? Sony? Someone third? Its the same reason why piracy/cheats are abundant. No one to put some control on it. Just like wild west.

    • The question was a rhetorical one. It’s not that I don’t understand why, I’m just tired of these witch hunts. No answer was necessary, but thanks for the replies I guess.

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