Hanbok-clad Chinese game characters spark controversy

By Kim Byung-wook
  • Published : Sept 30, 2021 - 19:47
  • Updated : Oct 1, 2021 - 10:35

A Chinese game featuring a female character dressed in traditional Korean costume hanbok has sparked controversy over plagiarism and intellectual property theft in South Korea. 

A hanbok item designed by Baekoaksoo in the Korean game “Girl Globe” (left) and a clothing item featured in Chinese game “Blooming Moonlight.” (Aircap)
According to industry sources Thursday, Blooming Moonlight, a game serviced in Korea by Chinese game developer Zishi Technology, showcases a character wearing a hanbok outfit with the exact same design as that of Baekoaksoo, a renowned Seoul-based hanbok company, which previously designed the outfits featured in the music video for BTS member Suga’s single “Daechwita,” released last year.

Cho Jin-woo, chief executive of Baekoaksoo, expressed concerns, saying that it was more than just a simple case of intellectual property theft.

“Hanbok is the national attire infused with the identity of the Korean people, and using it without permission is equivalent to stealing our unique spirit,” Cho said. “I hope the Chinese game company apologizes with utmost sincerity.”

Aircap, a Korean game company which has exclusive rights to use Baekoaksoo’s hanbok design inside games, also denounced the Chinese game developer.

According to Aircap, the stolen hanbok costume is one of the reward items given to users in the early stages of Girl Globe, the firm’s mobile dress up game. The Chinese developer copied the costume and simply changed the item’s name to “Lake Fog” from the original “Purple Scent.”

“Every detail of the costume has been plagiarized, even the flowers actually used in the photo shoot (of Baekoaksoo),” Han Ji-min, chief executive of Aircap, said.

“Though we asked the Chinese game company to make corrections, we haven’t heard back. If we don’t straighten this out, there will be another case like this. We will take actions based on legal consultations,” Han said.

Recently, Chinese games have made several attempts to dress their characters in hanbok, which infuriated Korean users who see it as an attempt by China to steal Korea’s cultural heritage. 

A hanbok costume worn by Korean singer-songwriter and actress IU in drama series “Moon Lovers” (left) and a clothing item from Chinese game Call Me an Emperor. (Online capture)
In April, a Chinese mobile game Call Me an Emperor was embroiled in controversy for dressing a female character in a hanbok dress that was worn by Korean singer-songwriter and actress IU in the drama series “Moon Lovers.”

Controversial hanbok attire items introduced in Shining Nikki.(Paper Games)
Last November, Chinese gaming firm Paper Games’ Shining Nikki shut down its Korean server just two months after controversy erupted over clothing items featured in the game that resembled hanbok.