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MMO Currency Funding North Korea?

kim.jpgFor those of us in the "politics junkie" camp, there's an intellectual debate to be had about communism. For its supporters, it is the road to, while not quite utopia, something of a resolution of capitalism's ills. Casting off the vices of pride, avarice, and a lust for power, society will gradually move toward the common good; the zeitgeist will become not concern purely for oneself, but for the well-being of all. To its detractors, such a prediction is utter balderdash, and inevitably leads to a system that is, if not fascism, indistinguishable therefrom.

Then there's North Korea, and of course, Kim Jong-Il.

Part Stalinist dictator, part adorable scamp, there's a good deal of fun to be had at Dear Leader's expense. Now he's gone too far: getting his totalitarianism on my video games.

According to the New York Times (which my conservative friends tell me is at the heart of the communist conspiracy), your MMO currency, once sold on reputable websites by a combination of bored players and forced prison labor, may be funneling cash to the North Korean government.

From the Times:

Despite its decrepit economy, North Korea is believed to train an army of computer programmers and hackers. The police in Seoul said Thursday that four South Koreans and a Korean-Chinese had been arrested on charges of drawing on that army to organize a hacking squad of 30 young video gaming experts.

Working from Northern China, the police said, the squad created software that breached the servers for such popular South Korean online gaming sites as "Lineage" and "Dungeon and Fighter." The breach allowed round-the-clock play by "factories" of dozens of unmanned computers.

Hit the jump to read on!

According to the South Korean authorities, the enterprise made about six million dollars in just under two years - "55 percent of it to the hackers, who forwarded some of it to agents in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea" - and were in regular contact with agents. The government has a number of illicit sources for income, which reportedly answers to a Party agency known as Office 39, "which gathers foreign hard currency for Mr. Kim through drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales and other illicit activities." Through their pursuits, the government is said to have generated billions of dollars in income, which has been used for luxury goods and, quite possibility, nuclear weapons and/or technology.

Now despite the playful jibes - Kim Jong-Il definitely has a look and personality that positively screams "no one around my questions anything I say or do - North Korea does operate under a truly ghastly system. I think Christopher Hitchens said it best:

[I]n a place with absolutely no private or personal life, with the incessant worship of a mediocre career-sadist as the only culture, where all citizens are the permanent property of the state, the highest form of pointlessness has been achieved.

Of course, this isn't going to change the minds of many people. Supply and demand sometimes comes with collateral damage, and as far as I know, people are still buying shoes made by children who are wondering why they can't go to school. Still, for the more conscientious gamers out there, it's good information to have. I tend to be fervently left of center, so the whole ethos surrounding communism (though technically socialism), or whatever deformed variations have popped up over the course of history, annoys me to no end. As my mother always told me, "this is why we can't have nice things."

via New York Times

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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