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Mobile game Shining Nikki shuts down Korean server amid controversy over traditional clothing

Hanbok attire items introduced in Shining Nikki that sparked controversy (Paper Games)
Hanbok attire items introduced in Shining Nikki that sparked controversy (Paper Games)

Chinese mobile gaming firm Paper Games’ newest release, Shining Nikki, announced that it is shutting down its Korean server on Dec. 9, after controversy erupted over the identity of the clothing items featured in the game.

Shining Nikki, a sequel to Nikki Up2U3: Miracle Nikki, is a dress up RPG game that opened its Korean service in Oct. 29. To celebrate, it released a set of in-game items with hanbok motives in the Korean, Chinese and Taiwan servers. Hanbok refers to traditional Korean dress. However, Chinese netizens complained that the hanbok copied traditional Chinese clothing and claimed that it was traditional attire for ethnic Koreans in China.

The Chinese response infuriated Korean netizens, who argued that it was an attempt by China to steal Korean culture.

As the controversy continued online, Paper Games announced on Chinese social media site Weibo on Wednesday that it would respect and protect traditional Chinese culture.

“We will not only restrict chatting for the users in the Korean server who insult or spread malicious rumors about China but also suspend their accounts,” said Paper Games on Thursday.

Later, it posted on the Korean website that it would remove all controversial items and that they would not be released in any country. It also promised to refund players who purchased the specific item as well as give additional game money and items on Thursday.

As users continued to demand an explanation and apology, Paper Games announced just before midnight on Thursday that it would close down its Korean server.

“What angers and saddens us is that although we announced that we will get rid of the controversial attires in the game, some accounts continued to insult China, and they have finally crossed the line. As a Chinese company, we strongly reject these actions and reports from media and will protect the integrity of China,” said Paper Games’ announcement. “As a result, we will shut down Shining Nikki’s Korean server.”

Paper Games announced that downloads of the game and purchases within the game will be closed on Friday and the last date of the server will be Dec. 9.

This further infuriated Korean server players who wanted refunds for their in-app purchases, which were not mentioned in the announcement. The set dates were seen by many as a way for the company to avoid legal obligations to refund. In addition, concerns about the security of personal information were raised as reports of the company‘s denial of requests to delete accounts flooded websites.

Paper Games announced Friday afternoon that all player information would be deleted and that all purchases made in the game would be refunded.

The game was hotly discussed on many portal sites in Korea on Friday, and National Assembly member Lee Sang-hun even posted a declaration criticizing the actions of foreign gaming companies.

Meanwhile, Paper Games showed loyalty to Chinese players by giving out in-game money to the players in the Chinese server and announcing the release of new hanbok items. Paper Games last year removed a facial mask item from its Chinese server after controversy arose when players noted that wearing the mask hanging from one ear reflected Hong Kong’s anti-mask law.

The incident further exacerbated the conflict between Korea and China online over China attempting to steal Korean culture. The hashtags #Korea_hanbok_challenge has been trending on Twitter as many Chinese dramas and character depictions were accused by Koreans of presenting hanbok as Chinese attire.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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