A Korean indie game fan brought an unfortunate situation to light on Reddit yesterday: apparently the South Korean Game Rating Board (GRB) has forced a Korean RPG Maker website to remove all of its games, due to the owner’s inability to pay for the ratings which are mandatory for ALL games. This includes freeware games that are distributed online, as was the case here. According to the poster, a 105 MB indie RPG might cost $71 to get rated in South Korea.
Similarly, Steam might be blocked by South Korea until they pay the fees to have their games rated, according to this post on TeamLiquid.net. This follows another unresolved incident between the GRB and Google involving games on Android, from March of this year. The South Korean government has threatened to ban Android Market if it does not comply with the ratings.
The GRB is a government-owned institution that, according to Wikipedia, was created out of a controversy wherein the Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) rated a gambling game “suitable for everyone”, allegedly due to a bribe. Now the GRB is South Korea’s only game rating organization, and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be much better than the KMRB. On TIGForums, Mrkwang of the Korean indie gaming site Pig-Min has cited a case where less than half of one percent of available Flash games were rated by the GRB during an inspection in 2007.
Obviously, this is a terrible situation, not just for fans and developers in Korea, but for every hot-blooded, freedom-loving game enthusiast. Ways to help are currently being discussed in this TIGForums thread and on Reddit.