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South Korean pop culture is a hit worldwide. Now, video games are next

South Korean esports players compete in a match during the Esports Championships East Asia in Seoul in 2021.
Jung Yeon-Je
/
AFP via Getty Images
South Korean esports players compete in a match during the Esports Championships East Asia in Seoul in 2021.

It's the country that brought you your favorite boy band, drama series, fermented food, and more. Now, one industry leader wants to put the spotlight on video games.

Who is she? Jeonghee "JJ" Jin is the CEO of Pearl Abyss America, part of the South Korean video game developer Pearl Abyss.

  • Jin grew up playing games after school at PC cafes in South Korea, a popular option for young people in the '90s who might not have had a great computer at home.
  • Now, her work as the CEO of Pearl Abyss America includes sharing their games with the mainstream, which aim to offer an alternative to the Western perspective.
  • What's the big deal? Despite having a rich culture to fall back on, Jin says many Korean game developers have focused on stories and plotlines that have largely focused on Western culture. She thinks it's time to stray from that.

  • One of Abyss' best known games is Black Desert Online a MMORPG (a massively multiplayer online role playing game, for the uninitiated)
  • The game takes place in a medieval fantasy world, a choice that Jin says was in part because of the possibility of creating a more wide reaching product.
  • "But now we believe our audience is also ready to embrace more cultural diversity," she told NPR.

  • Want to hear about a different kind of game? Listen to Consider This on how a Jeopardy! champ's disappearance from the show left fans mystified for decades.


    What's she saying? Jin spoke with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

    On where Jin want to take their new stories:

    We are now trying to create this new region in Black Desert that's all from Korea. So Korean landscapes, Korean culture, Korean housing and all dresses and everything, from the Joseon dynasty, a very famous kingdom in old Korea, and also a lot of Korean folk tales.

    On including the Korean perspective after the success of other cultural exports:

    I think it's really similar to other content businesses: K-pop, K-drama, K-movies. I think not only K-drama, I think there are probably more nationalities in content business.

    I really love seeing that trend. And nowadays, I think the young generation is really interested in experiencing something unique and a little different from what they already know.

    So, what now?

  • The esports and video game industry in South Korea continues to grow rapidly, as one of the largest in the world, with one statistic predicting the market value to reach up to $19 billion USD in 2024.
  • And with the increasingly voracious appetite for Korean culture worldwide, you might expect to see more of these offerings soon.
  • Learn more:

  • Worried about your kids' video gaming? Explore their online worlds yourself
  • The secret to Zelda's success: breaking the game in your own way
  • 'Diablo IV' Review: Activision Blizzard deals old-school devilish delights
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.