How much money can you really make from MMO gold farming? If you run the North Korean government and have access to entire teams of hackers, you can apparently raise $6 million. Also, it helps to be crazy and broke.
Kim Jong-Il perfectly fits all those prerequisites, as the the New York Times reports that the North Korean leader has taken to MMOs to fund his government. According to sources from Seoul police, the North Korean government has been collecting kickbacks from a hacking group that has accrued $6 million in real money, while the “slush fund” of the gold farming racket is estimated to be worth (virtual) billions. Apparently, Jong-Il has resorted to MMO farming as another odds means of cash flow, as the United Nations has restricted trade markets in North Korea, as well as issuing sanctions on the country’s nuclear programs.
It’s worth noting that gold farming scams and networks are incredibly common in many Asian territories — but it’s also one more illegal activity that Jong-Il uses to build revenue, plus “drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales and other illicit activities.”
From the Times:
Despite its decrepit economy, North Korea is believed to train an army of computer programmers and hackers. The police in Seoul said Thursday that four South Koreans and a Korean-Chinese had been arrested on charges of drawing on that army to organize a hacking squad of 30 young video gaming experts.
Working from Northern China, the police said, the squad created software that breached the servers for such popular South Korean online gaming sites as “Lineage” and “Dungeon and Fighter.” The breach allowed round-the-clock play by “factories” of dozens of unmanned computers.
In a little less than two years, the police said, the organizers made $6 million. They gave 55 percent of it to the hackers, who forwarded some of it to agents in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. “They regularly contacted North Korean agents for close consultations,” Chung Kil-hwan, a senior officer at the police agency’s International Crime Investigation Unit, said during a news briefing.
South Korean and American officials say they believe the slush fund is worth billions, and that Mr. Kim uses it to help finance his nuclear weapons programs and to smuggle Rolex watches and other luxury goods, which he doles out to buy the allegiance of the party and the military elite. Meanwhile, the bulk of his people suffer privation and myriad hardships.
North Korea denied responsibility and accused Seoul of inventing a conspiracy.