It’s time once again for a “Pokémon Go” global news update. We’ve reported on Nintendo’s epic gains in shares (although lately it’s leveled off and even slid down, more on this some other time), the app’s runaway success in now over 40 countries and counting, its triumphant homecoming in Japan (the app’s developer Niantic is American after all) along with a major sponsorship in McDonald’s. And now we chalk up another item for the biggest topic category of this gaming phenomenon: the strange and funny stuff. Ready?
Okay, so here’s the situation: “Pokémon Go” has yet to officially launch in South Korea, although enterprising fans can already have the app loaded in their mobile devices, since it relies on real-world GPS map data to generate Pokémon around the player’s environment along with Poke-stop and Pokémon Gym locations. The thing is this doesn’t help South Korean Poke-fans at all. The national territory is blanketed in a GPS dead zone by the government for security reasons regarding North Korea, with which the country is still technically at war with and merely abiding by the longest ceasefire in modern history.
But, as CNN reports, determined players have found a dodge for this. To the northeast of South Korea is the fishing and resort city of Sokcho, which also happens to lay a mere 35 kilometers from the infamous demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the Korean peninsula between North and South. And it’s also part of a sliver of Southern land area that is not included in the GPS dead zone.
Needless to say, lots of people with “Pokémon Go” in their mobile gadgets, not just in South Korea but China too, have filled buses headed for Sokcho. Once out of the blanket, they fire up their GPS locators and open the game, and the real world seems to fade away to an epic Pokémon journey through the aid of augmented reality.
Any other community may have been turned off by the influx of unexpected visitors hooked on one thing, but like Forks in Washington State during the heyday of “Twilight” fever, Sokcho has taken in the newcomers in their stride. Local shops have begun offering discounts to “Pokémon Go” trainers, sometimes scaling up the more Pokémon the player has captured. The local government has set up mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and battery charging stations to keep the experience going. Even the mayor of Sokcho has been incredibly receptive of the travelling gamers, even going so far as to craft a costumed identity as the local Pokémon professor Doctor Li, and making himself available for photo ops.
As for when the official release of “Pokémon Go” service in South Korea will happen, The Pokémon Company’s Korean branch can make no guarantees. Google is still in negotiations with the government to be able to make use of its map data for the app, but security concerns are still an obstacle.
While this quagmire goes on however, Sokcho seems more than happy to be South Korea’s Pokémon capturing region for now.
Photo Credit to www.wsj.com