China Refuses Licenses to New Korean Online Games

  • By Lim Kyeong-eop

    April 06, 2018 12:23

    China has refused to authorize the sale of any Korean online games over the past year as part of an unofficial boycott of Korean goods and services. During the same period, the Korean government licensed 111 Chinese online games.

    According to industry insiders on Thursday, China authorized the sale of 412 foreign online games from March 2017 until April of this year, but not a single Korean game was among them.

    Late last month, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with President Moon Jae-in and pledged to end the boycott, but Beijing has yet to follow through. In contrast, Chinese online games continue to flourish in Korea. According to IGAWorks, which analyzes sales of mobile apps, 136 Chinese online games were sold via Google Play Korea last year, compared to 114 in 2016. 

    Industry watchers believe Chinese game developers generated sales of around W200 billion in Korea last year, up by around W80 billion from a year ealier (US$1=W1,061).

    Korean game developers fear that the trade balance in the industry may tip in favor of China. Over the last decade, China has become the biggest market for Korean online games, but now they appear to be at the risk of losing the glory.

    According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, exports of Korean online games to China amounted to around W1 trillion in 2016 led by Nexon's "Dungeon and Fighter" and Smilegate's "CrossFire."

    But those games have been around for almost 10 years. If their popularity in China declines, developers stand to lose vast amounts of money unless their new games become available there too. Kang Kyoung-seok at KCCA said, "Currently no new Korean games can enter the Chinese market, so sales are expected to remain weak for now."

    One staffer at a Korean game developer said, "Korean companies can't afford to complain to China for fear of retaliation, and Korean government officials have failed to listen to our difficulties, let alone address the issue."

    An official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism here said, "We protested several times to China, but they simply deny things." 

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