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Political Activist Somi develops South Korean Video Game to Raise Awareness of Government Surveillance

It was a book - Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother - that provided Somi with the original spark for 'Replica'

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Multiple award-winning game Replica was inspired in part by the passage of South Korea’s first anti-terrorism law and government surveillance in the United States. VOA
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Seoul, September 30, 2016:

At the Busan Indie Connect (BIC), he wears a pair of large, black sunglasses with reflective lenses. The glasses, however, are a small attempt to conceal his identity as a game developer from coworkers at his day job.

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His multiple award-winning game Replica was inspired in part by the passage of South Korea’s first anti-terrorism law and government surveillance in the United States. He believes Replica is Korea’s first video game with a political message. It’s not a direct criticism of any government, Somi said, but it is designed to make its players question government.

“If we just follow the orders of our bosses, or if we do not think about what’s wrong or good and just act as we are ordered, we can be evil,” said Somi. “Normal people can be evil.”

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It was a book – Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother – that provided Somi with the original spark for Replica. The novel follows four teenagers fighting off the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack.

Somi sees Replica as an echo of sorts for Little Brother.

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother
Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother

“I wanted to make a second creation of that novel into my game. I really wanted to speak about the banality of evil in this game,” he said.

Replica poses a moral dilemma to its players: as a terrorist suspect following an attack, you can clear your name by hacking into another suspect’s smartphone to find incriminating evidence. Innocence

and privacy are negligible if your snooping leads to an arrest.

Opposition parties are wary of such snooping and fear South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) could abuse its expanded authority under the new law. The opposition staged a world record filibuster for eight days in February and March to try and block the Anti-Terror Act, which allows the NIS to gather personal information and monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists.

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“Of course the filibuster has failed and the law is now in effect,” said Somi. “The NIS has a lot of power; they can inspect privacy things legally now.”

Cautious game creator

After pressing him several times, Somi told VOA he graduated from law school and now works in a related industry. He said “maybe” when asked if he works in law enforcement.

“My boss, doesn’t know what I am doing now,” he said. “And if they know my game or I’m developing this kind of game, I don’t know what will happen. So I brought my sunglasses.”

The South Korean government, Somi said, has never contacted him about Replica. But the Game Content Rating Board (GCRB) did review it so he could sell it here.

“They didn’t say anything about the political content,” Somi said. “They just said that it has a few violent expressions.”

Expanding government

Following the Paris terror attacks last November, President Park Geun-hye and members of the ruling Saenuri Party pushed for parliament to approve the anti-terror law. It took effect in June and provides for the establishment of a new counterterrorism center.

Chang Byong-ock, former director of the Middle East Studies Institute at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said South Korea needs to be prepared for an attack.

“There is enough possibility of being attacked by Islamic states,” said Chang. “We (South Korea) cooperate with the United States in politics and investment and we have ties with the United States military.”

He said, however, it’s North Korea that’s the real focus of the new law.

“The main function of the center is to investigate spies in South Korea. They [NIS] want to collect information about North Korean spies so they can bring them in,” said Chang.

The center is still being set up, and a representative said they won’t be giving interviews to the media, foreign or Korean, until the end of the year.

With the expanded reach of the NIS through the counterterrorism center, many opposition lawmakers have expressed concern about potential human rights violations.

“Efforts have to be made to counter vulnerable areas [holes in South Korean intelligence]. But I’m also worried the government may use the bill to violate the basic human rights of people who don’t represent threats to national security,” said Hwang Do-soo, a constitutional law professor at Konkuk University.

Hwang said while he has concerns, he sees the law as progress and believes the country needs new “terror-preventing frameworks.”

‘Powerful message’

Somi is still wearing his opaque sunglasses when he walks onstage to receive the BIC’s 2016 Excellence in Narrative Award.

As of September, Replica has sold more than 4,000 copies and has an overall “very positive” rating on the website Steam.

“Of course there are haters in Korea, because their conservative views feel uncomfortable when they see and read my message in the game, but most Korean people and most reviews in the steam store are very good,” said Somi.

The price of Replica has also attracted players — it’s only $2.99.

But others have picked up on Somi’s inspiration for a game that reflects real life.

“This game definitely criticizes the Patriot Act [U.S. anti-terrorism law] and South Korea’s Anti-Terrorism Act. This game has a point, and makes me think about the issue deeper,” said Mirauzo, a reviewer on Steam.

Sun Park, an independent developer in Seoul and co-founder of Turtle Cream game studio, believes Replica has the power to impact society.

“Already lots of Korean gamers played it. And it’s becoming really famous. One of most famous indie games in South Korea,” he said. “Adding a powerful message in game is more powerful than other media, I think. The experience in game is like giving the actual experience to gamers as a main character. Main hero of this story.”

Despite Replica’s politically charged message, Somi said, game development is just a side project he dives into after midnight once he’s put his young daughter to bed. (VOA)

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  • Antara

    Stunning creation!

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)