North Korea deploys squad of MMO gold farmers to fund regime

Lineage 2

The New York Times report that five people in South Korea have been arrested on suspicion of organising a gold farming operation under the instruction of a North Korean government agency.

Seoul police say that a group of 30 young hackers deployed an army of bots to amass huge amounts of in-game gold in popular Korean MMOs like Lineage. These funds were then sold on to gamers for real money. They made an estimated $6 million in two years. A portion of those profits were wired back to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

According to a senior officer at the Seoul International Crime Investigation Unit, the team of hackers “regularly contacted North Korean agents for close consultations.”

Seoul police say that the five who have been arrested worked for a secretive Communist Party agency dubbed "Office 39," an organisation dedicated to amassing foreign currency for the severely cash-strapped North Korean government. According to the New York Times, Office 39 gather funds through "drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales and other illicit activities." Gold farming is the latest charge.

The team of hackers are all reportedly graduates of two of North Korea's top science universities, the state-owned Korea Computer Center in Pyongyang and the Korea Neungnado General Trading Company. Police say that they were required to send at least $500 a month back to the government in Pyongyang.

North Korea have denied the allegations, and accuse Seoul of inventing a conspiracy.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.