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South Korean game regulatory agency investigated for corruption

The Game Rating and Administration Commission (GRAC) in South Korea has been hit by a wave of resignations within its leadership. The commission came under investigation following a petition submitted by players of the popular mobile game, Blue Archive, as reported by Chinese news outlet GameLook and English-language outlet NicheGamer. The controversy arose when both Blue Archive and Fate Grand Order, another gacha game, had their age ratings increased from 15 to 18 due to perceived graphic content, which sparked strong disagreement among players.

The commission's decision to request an age-rating change for the games prompted players to launch a petition that garnered around 5,400 signatures. This triggered a public audit and investigation into the company, which uncovered a suspected embezzlement of 600 million won ($46,000). Allegations suggest the money was funneled from funding and used for bitcoin mining, though some reports indicate it could be related to an internal management system project.

As a result of the investigation, at least three department heads have stepped down, including those responsible for management planning, game content management, and self-regulatory support.

The scandal has brought the age-rating process into the spotlight. Despite this, the Game Policy Self Governing Organisation (GSOK), which oversees certain mobile games, including gacha titles, appears to be functioning normally.

While the controversy may seem confined to age-rating issues, some critics argue that there have been other cases of harsh legislative actions in the gaming industry. For instance, there were proposals for an approval system for games originating in China, a country with which South Korea has historically strained relations.

Chinese players, in particular, have expressed concern about possible politicized actions affecting Chinese-developed mobile games in the Korean market. They view the age-rating scandal as an example of such regulatory bias.

Moreover, suspicions of corruption within GRAC have also been raised, with some lawmakers using the player petition as a pretext to investigate the commission further. Notably, it's unusual to witness a mobile game triggering such significant consequences for a regulatory body.

Source: Iwan Morris, Staff Writer at PocketGamer

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