Anime game fans got so angry about a nudity-related age rating they brought down South Korea's 'festering and rotting' game rating agency for corruption

Four anime girls walk along a harbour in Blue Archive.
(Image credit: Nexon)

South Korea's Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC) graces our news pages a lot. A bizarre amount, actually, and it's because it might be the leakiest organisation of its type on the planet. In the last month alone, the agency's rating process has inadvertently revealed the existence of a Quake 2 Remaster and given countless people hope that something, anything might be happening to free Red Dead Redemption 1 from its Xbox 360 and PS3 prison. 

But now it's made the news for a very different reason: (via Niche Gamer) reports that the agency is being taken to task over a corruption scandal that's apparently seen hundreds of millions of won in taxpayers' money go missing, and it's only happening because the GRAC made the mistake of angering a legion of anime game fans.

Things kicked off last October, when the GRAC made the fateful decision to ratchet up the age rating on Blue Archive—a mobile, gacha-style anime RPG from Nexon—from 15 to 18. The presence of Blue Archive characters in a state of undress was, apparently, too much for the GRAC, which told Nexon to either raise its game's age limit or alter the offending scenes.

Nexon chose to do both, raising the standard game's age rating to 18 and announcing that a new, more modest version of the game that maintained its 15 rating would come out at some point in the future. That didn't mollify the game's fans, though: 5,489 of them—spearheaded by Korean Democratic party lawmaker Lee Sang-heon—signed a petition in protest, calling for a public audit of the GRAC's work and use of resources.

That audit actually happened, and it published its results at the end of June this year, with the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism finding that the GRAC had apparently mislaid about 700 million Korean won (around half a million dollars) of taxpayers' money. Korean media outlet MBC News reports (the following is machine-translated) "the Game Commission had committed structural misconduct, such as making payments before completing tasks or creating false data in the process of promoting a service project". In other words, it looks like money earmarked for certain projects mysteriously went walkabout.

Other Korean media reports the misconduct took place in the course of the GRAC's promotion of projects like the "Self-Rating Game Integrated Management System" and "Self-Rating Game Blockchain Joint Certification Concept Verification Service," which is honestly the exact kind of project you'd expect to be associated with this kind of thing.

PocketGamer also reports allegations that some of the money was diverted directly to Bitcoin mining, although it's probably the case that's a misunderstanding born of the "Self-Rating Game Blockchain" project tied to the scandal.

The Ministry doesn't seem to think it's just an honest mistake, either: It's announced its intention to overhaul the entire agency, replacing its various department heads and filing criminal charges, including against at least one individual "in charge" as part of the scandal. The Ministry also hopes to recover the missing cash as damages. At least three departmental heads have already resigned in disgrace over the whole affair.

Lee Sang-heon, the lawmaker who made himself the political face of the Blue Archive petition, is taking a bit of a victory lap. Over on his blog, he said that (again, machine-translated) "the allegations of misconduct raised by the councilor's office turned out to be true. The Game Management Committee has been consistent with conservative game censorship and regulation, [but] in fact, the inside of the organ was festering and rotting".

"The resulting damage had to be fully borne by the game user," said Lee. "Fortunately, the substantive truth that had been hidden was revealed in this audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection. If it weren't for the 5,489 users who were with us, it was a suspicion that would have sunk below the surface".

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.